U.S. Senator Talks About Experiences with Sexual Assault in Military

Jamie Hartmann
Web Content Manager

PC: Gage Skidmore

On March 6, Senator Martha McSally (AZ-R) shared an impactful testimony of her stance and experiences with sexual assault and rape in the military.

“Like so many men and women, I did not trust the system at the time. I blame myself. I was ashamed and confused,” said McSally at a military sexual assault hearing on the matter where she demanded changes. “I thought I was strong, but felt powerless…I was preyed upon and raped by a superior officer. I stayed silent for so many years, but later in my career, as the military grappled with scandals and the wholly inadequate responses, I felt the need to let some people know, I too was a survivor.”

McSally spent 26 years serving in the United States Air Force, and was the first woman to ever fly into battle. She was deployed in Kuwait and fought in the Persian Gulf War. After returning, she served two terms in the House and was appointed to the Senate after John McCain’s passing last year.

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

Her speech made rippling effects through the House of Representatives and the Senate, even reaching into the Pentagon, according to the New York Times. Several fellow congress members have showed immense support for McSally, including Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-D), who is running for President in the 2020 election.

In the address, McSally made it clear that she is demanding change within the military to address and resolve the issue of sexual assault.

“We must fix those distortions and the culture of our military that permits sexual harm towards women, and yes, some men as well. We must educate, select, and then further educate commanders who want to do the right thing, but who are naive to the realities of sexual assault. We must ensure that all commanders are trained and empowered to take legal actions, prosecute fairly, and rid perpetrators into the ranks. If the commander is the problem, or fails in his or her duties, they must be removed and held harshly accountable,” McSally said. “… It must be told and constantly maintained, and expertly managed by commanders [who] were educated, conditioned, and given the tools to ensure what you survive, and what you survived happens to no warrior under their command.”

In the Pentagon report for fiscal year 2017, the most recent study done, it was found that 6,769 reports of sexual assault were reported either by the victim or subject(s) of the crime investigation. This is a 9.7 percent increase from 2016, with only 6,172 reports made. McSally expressed the need for sexual assault to be eliminated from the military, as it, “Harms the missions and places of risk and security of our country.”

The United States Air Force released a statement on the issue shortly after McSally spoke in the Senate.

“We are appalled and deeply sorry for what Senator McSally experienced, and we stand behind her and all victims of sexual assault,” said Capt. Carrie J Volpe in the statement. “We are steadfast in our commitment to eliminate this reprehensible behavior and breach of trust in our ranks.”  

McSally has chosen to not report the name of her assailants or their rank in the military, The Air Force has responded with readiness to an investigation if she opts otherwise.

McSally is one of the many congresswomen emphasizing the #MeToo movement. She described her questioning on the matter as, “the system was raping [her] all over again,” and explained the importance and urgency of the issue. In a CBS interview, she told the reporter that she would not be willing to make someone report their assault, but wants to make it easier for the victim to have options.

“We have come a long way to stop military sexual assault, but we have a long way to go….We are survivors together, and I am honored to be here and use my voice and unique experience to work on this mission to stop military sexual assault for good,” said McSally.



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