UPDATED: 2019/03/06 8:00PM
Arizona’s Senator Martha McSally revealed to a Senate Armed Services subcommittee that she was raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. The hearing was on preventing sexual assault in the military, a pervasive problem. McSally is the country’s first female pilot to fly in combat. She served in the Air Force for 26 years.
McSally told the group of witnesses set to testify at the hearing about their own experienced with assault, “Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor. 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.”
She expressed that she felt “ashamed and confused” at the time and totally powerless. She shared, “In one case, I was preyed upon and raped by a superior officer.”
McSally said that she was prompted to come forward because she was seeing cases like hers being treated inadequately. “I was horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences was handled. I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years of service over my despair. Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again.”
In a statement, the Air Force voiced their support for the senator, saying that the “criminal actions” she described “violate every part of what it means to be an airman.”
In a statement made by an Air Force spokeswoman, they expressed their hope to change the system. “We are appalled and deeply sorry for what Senator McSally experienced and we stand behind her and all victims of sexual assault. We are steadfast in our commitment to eliminate this reprehensible behavior and breach of trust in our ranks.”
This is not the first time that McSally has spoken about sexual assault. While running for Senate, she revealed that she had been pressured by her high school athletic coach to have sex with him when she was just 17.