Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks at the USS Sioux City’s commissioning ceremony, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) opened up this week about a rape she says happened to her while she was in college, and the details she alleges are horrifying.
While her story has led to bipartisan expressions of sympathy and support, others have not resisted the urge to question how the Senator supported could have supported the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh who, during his confirmation hearing, was accused of sexual assault.
Ernst opened up in an interview with Bloomberg News, which described her as crying so hard that she was “barely intelligible” at times when discussing her past:
Republican Senator Joni Ernst says that she was raped in college by someone she knew and that her ex-husband physically abused her, making her one of the highest-profile women in her party to allege assaults in the era of the #MeToo movement.
She entered into a relationship with someone who was “very abusive. He was physically and sexually abusive,” she said. One night while she was in college at Iowa State University, he raped her at his home, then later threatened to kill himself if she broke up with him, she said. She called the campus sexual assault counseling center’s hotline, and ended the relationship. She didn’t report the attack to police, she said.
Some have drawn comparisons between what she said in her Bloomberg interview with her vote to confirm Justice Kavanaugh as if to insinuate she holds double standards on the issue of believing women. Clara Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of the liberal Mother Jones website, wrote:
It is brave of her to acknowledge this, but I must point out @SenJoniErnst voted to confirm Kavanaugh: "If Dr. Ford’s story cannot be corroborated, I will be supporting Judge Kavanaugh." https://t.co/GNTBjgf1wC
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) January 24, 2019
Civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke also quoted Ernst’s past comments about Justice Kavanaugh:
"What we want to see is, is there evidence or corroboration that the FBI is able to find through the supplemental investigation that would corroborate Dr Ford's accusations and if not, I will continue to support Kavanaugh based on info that I have at this time"- Sen. Joni Ernst https://t.co/6pMSCtkNe2
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) January 24, 2019
Huffington Post culture and politics writer Lauren Bassett zeroed in on the Trump and Kavanaugh portion of the Bloomberg piece:
Joni Ernst, the 4th highest-ranking GOP senator, says she was raped in college. Regarding her support for accused men Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, she "she drew a sharp distinction between her personal experience and her political decisions." https://t.co/Go1hFESMOf
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) January 24, 2019
What Jeffrey and others who don’t think Ernst’s support for Kavanuagh jives with her #MeToo story don’t reference are her comments she made at the time of the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court Justice in October 2018:
Ernst, who voted to confirm Kavanaugh, said that she believed that “Dr. Ford did experience some sort of trauma in her lifetime,” but that she did not believe “Brett Kavanaugh perpetrated the intimate crime against her.” She condemned Democrats for politicizing Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, saying that the Democratic motivation behind calling for a hearing was “to sink Kavanaugh.”
Ernst’s viewpoint that perhaps someone else had sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was shared by Senator Susan Collins and other GOP members of the US Senate who were not suggesting Ford was lying.
Also from that same interview (bolded emphasis added):
“They threw her to the wolves,” Ernst said about Ford, who had initially wanted her allegations against Kavanaugh to be kept anonymous. Ernst volunteered at a women’s crisis center and on a crisis hotline while she was at Iowa State University, and worked with women who had been abused, so she said that sexual assault was “a very important topic to me.”
Guess who else didn’t want their allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault ‘outed’ to the public? Senator Joni Ernst, who in the same Bloomberg interview said:
“I didn’t want to share it with anybody, and in the era of hashtag-MeToo survivors, I always believed that every person is different and they will confront their demons when they’re ready,” the Iowa senator said in the interview.
Her voice broke. “And I was not ready.”
She wasn’t ready to discuss the abuse accusations against her husband, but was outed. And during the course of an interview about that alleged abuse, she opened up about other instances in her past where she says a man hurt her sexually. On the flip side, the allegations against Kavanaugh were made public at the 11th hour by a Democratic US Senator who used them – and a private citizen who didn’t seek the spotlight – for political advantage during a highly contentious confirmation process for the Supreme Court.
The situations are completely different.
Ernst has spoken of what her life is like now that people know she’s an (alleged) victim of spousal abuse and sexual violence. This interview is hard to watch:
EMOTIONAL REVELATION: Senator @joniernst breaks down answering my question about how this alleged abuse and divorce from her husband will change her in the future. @weareiowa5news pic.twitter.com/Z09aug5Vpq
— Angelina Salcedo (@AngelinaWTSP) January 23, 2019
Also of note is this emotional interview CNN’s Kate Bolduan conducted with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) where they discussed Ernst’s revelations:
Powerful TV moment. CNN Kate Bolduan and @RepDebDingell fight back tears…as they discuss the alleged abuse of Senator Joni Ernst. Dingell says she is a sexual harassment survivor and understands Ernst pain. #DomesticViolence #ThursdayThoughts pic.twitter.com/G0OnLN8HSu
— Rebecca Aguilar (@RebeccaAguilar) January 24, 2019
For many survivors, it’s hard enough to open up privately to family members and friends and admit to being sexually assaulted or raped because they feel shame and, unfortunately, blame themselves. It’s doubly hard when you’re a high-profile public figure who wants to be viewed as tough as nails and able to “hang with the big boys.”
Senator Ernst deserves our compassion and respect at this time, and we need to make sure that the false comparisons being made about her support of Kavanaugh versus her #MeToo moment remain the exception, and not the rule.
— Connect with Sister Toldjah on Twitter. —