U.S. Senator Martha McSally said for the first time on Wednesday that she was raped by a superior during her service in the Air Force.
McSally, a Republican, served for 22 years before retiring in 2010 as a colonel. She deployed six times in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
During a hearing on sexual assault in the military, McSally alleged that she was raped by a superior officer during her service. She did not provide the name of the officer in question or the date that the alleged incident occurred.
McSally said she did not report the incident out of a sense of distrust.
McSally has also talked about being sexually abused in high school.
“I am also a military sexual assault survivor, but unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted,” McSally said. “Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time. I blamed myself, I was ashamed and confused, and I thought I was strong, but felt powerless.”
McSally said that she later told people about the incident, but felt “horrified” by how her revelations were handled by the military. She added that she almost “separated from the Air Force at 18 years” over grief related to its handling of her allegations.
“Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again. But I didn’t quit. I decided to stay and continue to serve and fight and lead, to be a voice from within the ranks for women. And then in the House, and now in the Senate,” said McSally, who was elected as an Arizona Congresswoman in 2014.
McSally also spoke from her position as a commanding officer.
She said, “I share disgust of the failures of the military system and many commanders who failed in their responsibilities, but it’s for this very reason that we must allow, we must demand, that commanders stay at the center of the solution.”
The Arizona Senator, who was appointed to her seat by Governor Doug Ducey last year, called for more education on sexual assault and removing commanders who turn a blind eye to misconduct in their ranks.