I happened to be scrolling through Twitter last night and saw a video about Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) speaking about her recent divorce filing.

When I think of Senator Joni Ernst, I think of one of our strong Republican women who occasionally pops up in the news. I seem to always go back to the word strong with so many women. It’s an adjective I can place in front of pretty much any female politician because the attacks on women are way more personal than attacks on men. Women have to enter politics with a thick skin and solid backbone. We see media attacking women for what they wore or their hairstyles, but with Republican women, their intellect is constantly called into question because they dared to think differently than what the mainstream media believes they should.

Strong took on a whole new meaning when I learned of what had happened to Senator Ernst. According to the Des Moines Register, Senator Ernst listed a physical assault by her husband after she confronted him about a possible inappropriate relationship he was having with their daughter’s babysitter. In affidavits, Ernst lists going through emotional abuse and mental abuse after some of her biggest accomplishments. She was even offered the position as a vice presidential candidate for then-candidate Donald Trump. Ernst turned it down. There was too much going on in her personal life and she couldn’t put her family through that at the time.

Senator Ernst was never anticipating to talk to people about her divorce because she didn’t think some of the records would be made public. When Senator Ernst was asked whether or not she saw herself as a role model due to her now-public survival story of abuse, she said that she draws much her inspiration from others who share their stories and “so many other survivors that have been through so much worse.” Their courage is what keeps her going.

Senator Ernst also mentioned that she was forced to share her story and said “I am a survivor, and I fully believe that our survivors have the right to keep their stories to themselves if they don’t want to share those stories or are not ready to share those stories.”

Senator Ernst is known for her work advocating for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. She was even a victim advocate on campus while she attended Iowa State University. She has spent time in Washington addressing sexual assault in the military and even was a part of a group of senators who called for an investigation into USA Gymnastics after the story broke.

Senator Ernst recently got put on the Senate Judiciary Committee where she was one of the first female Republicans placed on the committee along with Senator Marsha Blackburn. She has said that she will use this position to bring back the Violence Against Women Act, which recently expired. In fact, she wants to modernize it.

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Just as recently as yesterday, Senator Ernst told Bloomberg that she was raped in college by an ex-friend. As she was speaking to Bloomberg about this troubling piece of her past, she couldn’t hold back tears. She broke down crying, her words intelligible. She explains that she was at his place of residence when he raped and then threatened to kill her if she broke up with him. Ernst never reported this to the police. She even told Bloomberg that the reason she didn’t talk about her sexual assault was because she was embarrassed due to how deeply personal and private that issue is.

To Senator Ernst,

You never owed us your story. I’m so sorry that someone took away your right to choose whether or not to disclose your story.

I find you so incredibly brave for sharing these intimate details that can help so many young women who have gone through this themselves.

As a sexual assault survivor advocate, though not a survivor myself, and a Republican, you are going to make waves with your personal testimony. You can change so much of the conversation as you have already started doing.

Your strength, courage, and compassion, is why I will continue to stand behind you and face these monsters with you.

Thank you for everything you’re doing for survivors and what you’re doing for this country.

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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