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Senator Martha McSally, an Air Force Veteran, Says She Was Raped by Superior Officer

U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) speaks during a Senate Armed Subcommittee hearing on preventing sexual assault where she spoke about her experience of being sexually assaulted in the military on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) speaks during a Senate Armed Subcommittee hearing on preventing sexual assault where she spoke about her experience of being sexually assaulted in the military on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system. I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused. I thought I was strong but felt powerless.”

(Reuters) – U.S. Senator Martha McSally, the first female combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force, said on Wednesday she had been raped by a superior officer but did not report it because she blamed herself and did not trust the system.

“The perpetrators abuse their position of power in profound ways, and in one case I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer,” McSally, an Arizona Republican, said during a Senate hearing on sexual assault in the military.

“But unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted,” she added. “Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system. I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused. I thought I was strong but felt powerless.”

McSally did not identify her attacker.

Another member of the subcommittee, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth who is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and lost both legs in combat in the Iraq war, said the military “has utterly failed at handling sexual assault.”

Sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. military is largely under-reported and came under renewed scrutiny two years ago after a scandal involving Marines sharing nude photos of women online came to light.

In fiscal 2017, the most recent period for which statistics are available, the U.S. Department of Defense received 6,769 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims or subjects of criminal investigation. That represented a nearly 10 percent increase in reported cases from the previous year, according to a Pentagon report last year.

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