The Arizona Republican, a military veteran, who served in the Air Force for 26 years before retiring as a colonel in 2010, made the reveal on Wednesday at a hearing in the Senate on the armed services’ efforts to prevent sexual assaults and improve the response when they occur. She said she was ashamed and confused and decided not to report being sexually assaulted because she did not trust the system. 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,” she added.
McSally’s revelation came after Senator Joni Ernst, an Army combat veteran, 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% in 2017 – a year that also saw an online nude photo-sharing scandal rock the defence 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. The veteran noted that the public must demand that higher-ranking officials be part of the solution.