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Fmr. fighter pilot Sen. McSally says she was raped by officer while in Air Force

Martha McSally, then a GOP congressional candidate from Arizona, in a November 17, 2012, file image. (Will Seberger/Zuma Press/TNS)
March 06, 2019

In a shock admission before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Martha McSally revealed that she was raped by a senior officer during her service in the Air Force.

McSally revealed her experience while the committee held a hearing on sexual assault prevention and response efforts in the military, as reports of sexual assaults in the military have been increasing in recent years.

“I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer,” McSally said.

“I stayed silent for many years, but later in my career, as the military grappled with the 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. 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.”

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McSally attributed her distrust in the military’s reporting procedures for keeping the rape a secret, and adding her disgust at such a system that fails sexual assault victims.

She called on the public to hold senior officials accountable for failing to address the issues.

McSally was appointed to the late Sen. John McCain’s seat by Gov. Doug Ducey in mid-Dec. 2018. She had been representing Arizona’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives since January 2015.

She retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Colonel in 2010 after serving for 26 years. She was the first female combat fighter pilot after the military lifted the ban in 1991, as well as the first female to lead a fighter squadron. She was also among the highest-ranked pilots in Air Force history, according to Military Times.

McSally flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II in combat deployments to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, with additional support deployments to Europe and Saudi Arabia.

Last year, McSally revealed that she was a victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by her high school coach, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

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“It took a while for me to come to a place where I understood what the hell I had been through,” McSally told The Wall Street Journal at the time. “At the time, I was so afraid. I now understand—like many girls and boys who are abused by people in authority over them—there’s a lot of fear and manipulation and shame.”

McSally is the second senator to come forth this year with rape allegations.

In January, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst came forward to publicly join the #MeToo movement and said she was raped while she was a student at Iowa State University.