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Joni Ernst Tells TIME She Was Sexually Harassed in the Military

Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate Candidate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate Candidate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst told TIME Friday that she was sexually harassed in the military. Separating herself from many of her fellow Republicans, Ernst also said she would support taking sexual assault cases out of the military chain of command.  

Ernst, a 20-year veteran, said in the interview with TIME that there are situations when soldiers may be hesitant to report sexual harassment.  

“I had comments, passes, things like that,” Ernst said. “These were some things where I was able to say stop and it simply stopped but there are other circumstances both for women and for men where they don’t stop and they may be afraid to report it.”  

After reports of high levels of sexual assault in the military, lawmakers worked to address the issue last spring. A main point of contention was whether such cases should be handled by military officers. In March, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill to address the issue was narrowly defeated in the Senate. The New York Democrat’s legislation would have removed sexual assault cases  from the chain of command.  

While Ernst stopped short of endorsing Gillibrand’s specific plan, she said that she would work with Gillibrand and other senators to address sexual assault in the military.  

One of Gillibrand’s supporters in March was Iowa GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley, who recently campaigned with Ernst at the Iowa state fair .  

Ernst had a surprising win in the primary to win the GOP nomination and will face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the fall to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the Iowa Senate race as a Tossup .  


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