Assemblywoman: I was the victim of domestic violence
TRENTON — The roller derby-playing New Jersey Assemblywoman who last April infamously flipped out on police with profanity-laden rants said this week she's been the victim of domestic abuse.
"I rang in New Years day of 2017 in the hospital," Maria Rodriguez-Gregg wrote in a public post on her personal Facebook page early Monday morning. "Half of my face was bruised, had abrasions, and a deep cut in my chin and I had abrasions and bruises all over my body. My excuse was I tried to stop a drunk person from driving. However, the reality was that I was in an abusive relationship and it wasn’t the first time this person put their hands on me.
"I remember sitting in the hospital room feeling completely ashamed and embarrassed. I couldn’t stop thinking 'how did I get here?'"
Rodriguez-Gregg wrote she did not report the incident immediately. Once she did, she said, her abuser was charged with assault — but she was haunted for months by the attack. She did not name the individual in her post and has not yet responded to a message about her post.
She wrote the stress contributed to her "finest moment" — the April confrontation with police in Mount Laurel. Dashcam videos of the incident have been viewed hundreds of thousands of time on YouTube and other platforms.
"I want to apologize for my actions and apologize to everyone I hurt and disappointed. I take full responsibility for how I acted. While there’s a lot more to be said about that incident, I’m grateful it happened. It was a wakeup call to finally get help," Rodriguez-Gregg wrote. "It was scary to see how badly the assault had affected my emotional and mental health. What happened to me does not excuse my actions. However, I couldn’t help but think about other people experiencing the aftermath of abuse. The emotional, physical, economic impact from domestic violence is staggering."
The Republican, whose last day in office is Tuesday, said she decided to go public after she was contacted by a young woman who'd been a "fan of her career" and wanted some advice.
Dashcam video of the incident shows Rodriguez-Gregg telling officers on the scene at least three times that she is an assemblywoman, and at one point complaining that she was being treated harshly as a Latina. She repeatedly argued with officers, saying she was calling her attorney and that she did nothing wrong.
Officers are heard saying on the recording they smell marijuana in her car. Ultimately, they found none. Nonetheless, she was charged with driving while intoxicated.
NJ.com reported that Burlington County Judge Dennis McInerne ruled that there is “credible evidence” that the 8th district Republican drove her car after having alcohol. Her attorney told The Trentonian that no marijuana was found in her system, but a “borderline” amount of alcohol was.
"While I may have felt empowered in that moment, I was still not ok," Rodriguez-Gregg wrote. "While the physical scars were healing, the emotional wounds were revealed. I was having nightmares so I would try not to sleep. I had panic attacks, was irritable and angry, blamed myself constantly, and was just extremely fearful. I was fearful of people knowing, fearful of the person that assaulted me, fearful of being around people in general. I kept telling myself to suck it up and drive on. I kept telling myself to be strong. The problem was, as I tried to be stronger, it just got worse."
She called the DWI arrest "wake-up call" to finally get help.
Rodriguez-Gregg said had she felt intimidated to drop assault the charges against her abuser. She called the penalty he ultimately faced "a slap on the wrist."
In 2014, Rodriguez-Gregg became the first Latina elected as a Republican to the state legislature. Rodriguez-Gregg did not run for re-election this year due to what she called “personal matters," but has said the DWI arrest was not the reason.
In her Facebook post, she also urged support for pending legislation — bill A1548, sponsored by Assemblyman Erik Peterson, and A3833, sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano — to toughen penalties for domestic violence.
"This is the first time that I am talking about this publicly. Honestly, I’ve had a really hard time opening up about this but right now, someone you know or that I know that is reading this may be getting abused," she wrote. They may be going through something similar or worse. This can happen to anyone. I hope speaking up encourages you to help others and seek help."