United States Senator Martha McSally, the first female Air Force fighter pilot to fly in combat, said on Wednesday that she had been raped by a superior officer, and later, when she tried to talk about it to military officials, she “felt like the system was raping me all over again”.
McSally, 52, who spent 26 years in the Air Force and commanded a fighter squadron, revealed the attack in emotional remarks during a Senate subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military.
“Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor,” McSally said, addressing several witnesses set to testify at the hearing about their own assaults while serving in the military. “But unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted. Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time.”
McSally, who served in the Air Force until 2010 and retired with the rank of colonel, said she kept quiet about the assault for many years.
“But later in my career, as the military grappled with scandals and their wholly inadequate responses, I felt the need to let some people know – I too was a survivor,” she said.
“I was horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences was handled,” she added. She almost left the Air Force after 18 years.
“Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again.”
Also this morning the shocking revelation of rape from US Senator Martha McSally, the first woman in the Air Force to fly in combat, she says she was raped by a superior officer while serving.@GregMilamSky reports #Sunrise @skynews https://t.co/pL62i0tHIF
— Sarah-Jane Mee (@skysarahjane) March 7, 2019
McSally said that during her military career, she was “greatly privileged to prepare and then lead my amazing Airmen in combat, which is the apex responsibility of any warrior leader.” But, McSally added that she had also “witnessed so many weaknesses in the processes involving sexual assault prevention, investigation, and adjudication,” which motivated her “to make recommendations to Air Force leaders, shaped my approach as a commander, and informed my advocacy for change while I remained in the military and since I have been in Congress.”
The senator’s new revelation comes a little more than a month after fellow Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa made public that she, too, survived rape in college. Like McSally, Ernst’s early assault wasn’t the only one in her life. She only came forward with the confession after her divorce records, which included allegations that her ex-husband physically abused her, were leaked to the public.
Six Republican women serving in the Senate. Now one-third of them have told the public that they’ve survived rape.
A sample of six women isn’t remotely demonstrative of the American population, and it certainly provides no indication that 1 in 3 women have suffered sexual or domestic violence. But it does underscore that the magnitude of this problem is not being exaggerated. From Hollywood to the military, every system that has effectively engaged in suppressing sexual assault victims has relied on shame, convincing victims that they are somehow complicit in their own assaults.
What Ernst and McSally went through is absolutely tragic. Both of their life stories serve as reminders that for every Duke and UVA rape hoax, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of actual victims struggling to survive sexual abuse.