Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell voiced her support on Thursday for Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, who has come forward publicly with her story of abuse.
“Frankly, it makes me want to cry,” Dingell said on CNN’s “At The Hour with Kate Bolduan.”
Dingell said she had refrained from speaking about certain incidents in her own past, and expressed sympathy with Ernst.
“I know my life would be forever changed if I told the whole story,” Dingell said. “And that’s what people don’t understand. I’ve talked a little more about living in a home where there’s been domestic violence, but people don’t understand how it scars you for life.”
Ernst said she was “not ready” to come forward with her story, which first went public in records from her recently finalized divorce. But after the reports, Ernst elaborated in an interview with Bloomberg, where she said her then-husband Gail Ernst mentally and physically abused her, and that she was raped by a boyfriend while in college.
“I didn’t want to share it with anybody, and in the era of #MeToo survivors, I always believed that every person is different and they will confront their demons when they’re ready,” Ernst said.
CNN has attempted to reach out to Gail Ernst for response to his ex-wife’s allegations and has not yet received a response.
Talking about her own past, Dingell said 20 years ago she even faced threats of blackmail, and that even in the more understanding climate of the current day, she still finds it difficult to talk about incidents she had faced.
“My heart goes out to her,” Dingell said. “And I will be with Joni Ernst wherever she is trying to stick up for sexual assault survivors and domestic violence survivors. Because you do survive. You can go on. It doesn’t define you but it never stops hurting.”
CNN’s Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.