Sen. McSally, ex-Air Force pilot, says officer raped her

  • Sen. Martha McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, said Wednesday that she was raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.
  • McSally said she did not report being sexually assaulted because she did not trust the system, and she said she was ashamed and confused. McSally did not name the officer who she says raped her.
Senator Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona, questions Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday. Feb. 26, 2019.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Senator Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona, questions Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday. Feb. 26, 2019.

Sen. Martha McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, said Wednesday that she was raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.

The Arizona Republican, a 26-year military veteran, made the disclosure at a Senate hearing on the armed services' efforts to prevent sexual assaults and improve the response when they occur.

McSally said she did not report being sexually assaulted because she did not trust the system, and she said she was ashamed and confused. McSally did not name the officer who she says raped her.

"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, choking up as she detailed what had happened to her. "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."

McSally's revelation comes not long after Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, detailed her own abuse and assault, and at a time of increased awareness over the problem of harassment and assault in the armed forces. Reports of sexual assaults across the military jumped nearly 10 percent in 2017 — a year that also saw an online nude-photo sharing scandal rock the Defense Department.

McSally said she shares in the disgust of the failures of the military system and many commanders who have failed to address the problems of sexual misconduct. She said the public must demand that higher-ranking officials be part of the solution.