Sen. McSally says she was raped by a superior officer in the Air Force

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., collects her thoughts on Wednesday, March 3, 2019, at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing, where she alleged that she had been raped by a superior officer while she served in the Air Force where she became the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat.



WASHINGTON – Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., said Wednesday during a congressional hearing that she was raped while in the service.

The admission by McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first American woman pilot to fly in combat, came during a Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel hearing focused on sexual assault in the military. She made the remarks during the opening moments of the hearing.

"Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor," she said. "But unlike so many brave survivors, I didn't report the sexual assault. Like so many women and men, I didn't trust the system at the time. I blame myself, I was ashamed and confused and I thought I was strong but felt powerless."

McSally said she was assaulted by a commanding officer. 

"The perpetrators abuse their positions of power in profound ways, and in one case, I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer," she said. "I stayed silent for many years, but later in my career as the military grappled with scandal, I felt the need to let the people know I, too, was a survivor."

Last April, McSally said she was also sexually abused by a high school coach. 

McSally is a military veteran and former House member who served on House Armed Services Committee last year. During the midterm elections, she lost a bid to fill the seat for Republican former Sen. Jeff Flake. 

Instead, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed her to temporarily fill the seat vacated by the late Republican Sen. John McCain and his successor, former Sen. Jon Kyl, who departed the upper chamber last year.

"During my 26 years in uniform I witnessed so many weaknesses in the processes involving sexual assault prevention, investigation and adjudication," McSally said. "It motivated me to make recommendations to Air Force leaders, it shaped my approach to command as a commander and it informed by advocacy for change." 

McSally said while the services has come a long way, there's a long way to go. 

"I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years over my despair," she said. "Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again. But I didn't quit." 

Twitter: @cgrisales