Sen. Joni Ernst said her ex-husband physically assaulted her after a confrontation about him allegedly having an affair with their daughter's babysitter, according to the Des Moines Register.
The revelation comes from divorce court filings that were recently made public in accordance with Iowa law, something Ernst admitted caught her off guard.
"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 and unfortunately I have been forced to share my story," Ernst said. "I would love to point the finger and say, 'Somebody screwed up. Somebody leaked.' But they're out there and so now I will deal with that."
In the court filings, Ernst wrote that she confronted her then-husband Gail about his relationship with their babysitter. Ernst wrote that Gail had a "special friendship" with her that extended beyond the time she was taking care of their daughter.
Ernst wrote that during an argument about it, Gail committed an act of physical abuse against her.
"We went through a very dark and troubling time in our marriage," Ernst wrote. "I very nearly filed for divorce after a night that we argued, and it became physical."
Joni and Gail Ernst stayed together after that, and attended counseling together on Gail's condition that that alleged assault not be discussed.
Joni Ernst also wrote that Gail would mentally and verbally abuse her. For example, Ernst claimed that Gail would become angry when she achieved her career goals.
Gail Ernst accused his ex-wife, who served in the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, of having an affair with one of her soldiers while she was a company commander, an accusation Joni Ernst fully denies.
Sen. Ernst announced the couple's plans to divorce in August, and the divorce was finalized this month. She said the revelations of her personal life do not change anything about who she is.
"What I want people to understand is that I am the same person as I was last week. You just know more about what's inside of me now," Ernst said.