On Wednesday, Senator Martha McSally disclosed that she was sexually assaulted by a superior officer, during a Senate hearing under the military’s efforts to prevent sexual assaults and improve response in case of an untoward incident. However, when the senator who is also the first female Air Force fighter pilot to fly in combat, tried to complain about the incident to the military officials, she said she “felt like the system was raping me all over again,” AP News reported.

Why didn’t she report?

Revealing the harsh truth, McSally claimed that she did not report the inappropriate behaviour earlier because she felt the system is corrupted and untrustworthy. “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 said during a Senate hearing on sexual assault in the military.

“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.”

“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.”

Keeping the identity of her attacker anonymous, McSally said she was impressed and grateful to the survivors who came forward to help change the system.

Sexual harassment in the US military

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“I stayed silent for many years, but later in my career, as the military grappled with scandals and their wholly inadequate responses, I felt the need to let some people know: I too was a survivor,” McSally said at the Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing.

“I was horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences were handled,” she said, adding that she came close to leaving the Air Force after 18 years. “Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again.”

Another member of the subcommittee, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, a retired Army lieutenant colonel said the military, “has utterly failed at handling sexual assault.”

This discussion was held two months after Senator Joni Ernst, an Army veteran, publicly disclosed that she had been raped in college and that her ex-husband had physically abused her too. Ernst, a Republican, has in the past worked with Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to combat sexual assault in the military.

Who is Martha McSally?

McSally, 52, is an Arizona Republican who served two terms in the US House of Representatives and a 26-year military veteran. She was appointed in December by the state’s governor to take over the Senate seat.

Air Force spokeswoman Captain Carrie Volpe said in a statement, “We are appalled and deeply sorry for what Senator McSally experienced and we stand behind her and all victims of sexual assault. We are steadfast in our commitment to eliminate this reprehensible behaviour and breach of trust in our ranks.”

Feature Image credit: AP News

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