To Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, the issue of sexual assault in the military is “deeply personal.” The freshman senator revealed Wednesday during a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military that she was raped while serving in the Air Force.
“So like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor,” she said, adding that she did not report the incident because she didn’t trust the system to stand up for her. “Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again. But I didn’t quit. I decided to stay.”
Sen. McSally said she hoped the military could fix the culture that had been lenient on sexual assault in the past, and said military commanders should lead the change, adding that they “must not be removed from the decision making responsibilities of preventing, detecting, and prosecuting military sexual assault. … I don’t want commanders to be off the hook: I need them to be more responsible for solving this issue.”
Sen. McSally, a Republican, was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force before she retired, and was the first American woman to fly in combat after the 1991 lifting of the prohibition on female combat pilots. She narrowly lost a run for senate in November 2018 against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. On Dec. 18, 2018, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to replace longtime Sen. John McCain, who died Aug. 25, 2018.
In 2016, as a member of the House of Representatives, McSally chose not to endorse President Donald Trump, and called his comments about sexual assault “disgusting” and “unacceptable.” But later, during her run for the senate, said she was a fan of the president and that his personal character was of no concern to her.