Sen. Joni Ernst said in an interview that she was raped by a boyfriend while she was a student at Iowa State University but didn’t report the assault.
In an interview with Bloomberg posted online Wednesday night, Ernst disclosed the attack. She also clarified her discussions with President Donald Trump about becoming his running mate.
Ernst, a first-term Republican from Iowa, this week has spoken about her troubled marriage and other aspects of her life after media disclosures based on court documents from her recently settled divorce from Gail Ernst, 65. They were married 26 years and have one adult daughter.
Ernst, 48, told Bloomberg she decided to disclose the rape after the court filings were publicized, including her allegations that her husband assaulted her.
Ernst said she was in a relationship with a man who was “physically and sexually abusive.” She said he raped her at his home and threatened to kill himself if she ended the relationship. She called a campus sexual assault counseling center hotline and ended the relationship but didn’t report the attack to police.
During her 2014 Senate campaign, Ernst noted she volunteered at the counseling center but didn’t acknowledge the assault.
“I was embarrassed,” she said. “I didn’t know how to explain it. I was so humiliated. And I’m a private person when it comes to those things.”
Ernst declined to name the man who attacked her, noting she’d described the assault to her former husband but not divulged the man’s identity.
In court affidavits filed during the divorce hearings, Ernst stated that Trump interviewed her in 2016 to be his vice president. Ernst wrote, “I turned Candidate Trump down, knowing it wasn’t the right thing for me or my family.”
In the Bloomberg interview, Ernst clarified that Trump didn’t offer her the job and that after thinking about it, she phoned then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort to withdraw from consideration.
Trump eventually chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is now vice president.
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