GOP Sen. Martha McSally reveals she was raped in the Air Force: 'I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused'

Elise Solé
Arizona Senator (R-AZ) Martha McSally said she was raped by a superior while serving in the Air Force. (Photo: Getty Images)
Arizona Senator (R-AZ) Martha McSally said she was raped by a superior while serving in the Air Force. (Photo: Getty Images)

Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) said she was raped by an officer during her time in the Air Force.

McSally, a retired colonel, spoke on Wednesday during the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel dedicated to preventing sexual assault in the military, according to AZ Central. The 52-year-old, who served for more than 20 years, said she didn’t report the rape because she feared being doubted, due to flawed investigations into other sexual assaults.

“So, like you, I also am a survivor, but unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted,” McSally said, according to 12 News. “Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time. I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused. I thought I was strong but felt powerless. The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways. In one case I was preyed upon and raped by a superior officer.”

She said, “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. 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.”

McSally said she felt “disgust of the failures of the military system and many commanders who failed in their responsibilities,” and called on commander training and leadership. “And if the commander is the problem or fails in his or her duties,” she said, “they must be removed and held harshly accountable.”

“We are survivors together, and I am honored to be here and use my voice and unique experience to work on this mission to stop military sexual assault for good,” she said.

In April, while running for Senate (for a seat she lost to Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, only to be appointed later to fill the other AZ Senate seat, left vacant by the late John McCain), McSally told the Wall Street Journal she was sexually abused by a high school track coach who was 20 years her senior.

“During the course of a recent interview about my path as an endurance athlete and completing the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, I shared some dark experiences from my past,” McSally had said in a statement. “These experiences don’t define me, but only deepened and strengthened my resolve to not be powerless, and dedicate my life to fight for others, especially girls, women and the vulnerable.”

A spokesperson for McSally didn’t return Yahoo Lifestyle’s interview request.

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