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I’m a ‘survivor of rape and betrayal’ – Arizona Sen. Martha McSally shares her ‘disgust’ at commanders who shirk their responsibility after revealing she was raped by a superior officer when she served in the Air Force

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Arizona Sen. Martha McSally reveals she was sexually assaulted in the military
‘I, too, was a survivor’ McSally is the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat testified at a Senate hearing on sexual assault in the military
Sen. McSally told the senate hearing she was raped by a superior officer when she served in the Air Force
She called herself a ‘survivor of rape and betrayal’ and sharing her ‘disgust’ at commanders who shirk their responsibility
Stating that shee initially did not come forward because she didn’t trust the system the freshman senator said she was ‘horrified’ about how her experience was handled
It nearly ended her military career, McSally said
McSally joined Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who recently detailed her own abuse and assault 


Sen. Martha McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, said Wednesday that she was raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force – and almost left the military over the ‘betrayal’ she felt.
The Arizona Republican, a 26-year military veteran, made the stunning disclosure at a Senate hearing on the armed services’ efforts to prevent sexual assaults and improve the response when they occur.

 Sen. Martha McSally revealed during a Senate committee hearing on sexual assault in the military, that she was raped by a superior while serving in the Air Force

She spoke pointedly of her ‘despair’ over the incident and the need to improve the system so that victims can feel comfortable sharing their stories, calling herself a ‘survivor of rape and betrayal.’
‘I share the disgust of the failures of the military system and at many commanders who failed in their responsibilities,’ she said.
McSally said she did not report being sexually assaulted because she did not trust the system, and she said she was ashamed and confused. McSally did not name the officer who she says raped her – although she had choice words for commanders who mishandle reported claims of assault.

‘Like many victims, I thought the system was raping me all over again,’ McSally said. ‘But I didn’t quit. I decided to stay and continued to serve and fight and lead,’ she said.
‘To be a voice from within the ranks for women, and then in the House, and now in the Senate. So this is personal for me, too.’
She called herself a ‘survivor of rape and betrayal.’
McSally brought up her account speaking to a hushed hearing room, pausing at times to maintain her composure recalling the incident.
‘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.
‘Like many victims, I thought the system was raping me all over again,’ said Sen. Martha McSally, who told a hushed hearing room she was raped by a superior during her military service.

McSally read from a lengthy statement where she detailed her rape by a superior, and called for military commanders to maintain their authority over assault reports
‘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 faulted military commanders for failing to deal properly with the situation.


Sen. Martha McSally [R-Ariz] revealed  she was a sexual assault survivor while addressing a Senate hearing Wednesday

She addressed some of her remarks to other witnesses, including survivors of rape and assault.
‘So, like you, I also am a military sexual assault survivor, but unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted. 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,’ McSally said.
‘The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways. In one case I was preyed upon and raped by a superior officer.’
‘We must demand that commanders stay at the center of the solution and live up to the moral and legal responsibilities that come with being a commander. We must fix those distortions  in the culture of our military that permit sexual harm towards women and yes, some men as well,’ she said.

‘Like many victims, I thought the system was raping me all over again,’  Sen. Martha McSally [photo]. The lawmaker told a hushed hearing room she was raped by a superior during her military service

She said some commanders are ‘naive’ to the dangers of sexual assault.
‘And if the commander is the problem, or fails in his or her duties, they must be removed and held harshly accountable,’ she said.
With reforms under consideration including bringing it outside the chain of command, she said commanders ‘must not be removed from the decision-making responsibility.


McSally’s revelation comes not long after Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, 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 percent in 2017 – a year that also saw an online nude-photo sharing scandal rock the Defense 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. She said the public must demand that higher-ranking officials be part of the solution.

When McSally was done speaking, retired Col. Don Christensen, from the group Protect Our Defenders, acknowledged the charged remarks that had just occured.
‘Senator McSally, thank you for those amazing words. We don’t see eye to eye on the solution, Sharing that was very, very powerful,’ he said. He said there has been no real improvement on assaults over the decade. He said the ‘commander-controlled system has failed to deliver accountability.’
He said just 3 per cent of more than 5,000 reports resulted in a conviction for a non-consensual sex offense.

‘The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways. In one case I was preyed upon and raped by a superior officer.’

Sen. Martha McSally’s remarks Wednesday at a Senate hearing revealing she’s a sexual abuse survivor from her time in military service

Thank you Chairman Tillis.

I too want to thank Senator Gillibrand for her advocacy for women in uniform and her passion for stopping the crime of sexual assault in our military.
This is also a passion of mine for many reasons, and I think I bring a unique and important perspective. My drive to fight against sexual assault in the ranks is not from the outside looking in. It is deeply personal.
First, for two years, I was honored to be a fighter squadron commander in the United States Air Force. Command is the most impactful duty one can have directly on the lives of servicemen and women—and their families. I was greatly privileged to prepare and then lead my amazing Airmen in combat, which is the apex responsibility of any warrior leader.
Military commanders are placed in a position of authority and responsibility like none other in civilian life. They are not like CEOs, managers, or any other supervisor.
Commanders have a moral responsibility to ensure readiness of their units, which, yes, includes warfighting skills, but demands the commander cultivates and protects and enriches a culture of teamwork, respect, and honor.
Conduct—any conduct–that degrades this readiness doesn’t just harm individuals in the ranks, it harms the mission and places at risk the security of our country. Commanders also have a covenant with the men and women under their command—the one percent who volunteer to serve in uniform. They are asked to follow lawful orders that could risk their lives for the mission. In return, it is the commander’s responsibility to surround their people with a climate of integrity, discipline, and excellence
During my 26-years in uniform, I witnessed so many weaknesses in the processes involving sexual assault prevention, investigation, and adjudication. It motivated me to make recommendations to Air Force leaders, shaped my approach as a commander, and informed my advocacy for change while I remained in the military and since I have been in Congress.
We have come a long way to stop military sexual assault but we still have a long way to go. When I first entered the Air Force Academy in the 9th class with women, sexual harassment and assault were prevalent but victims mostly suffered in silence. It took many years and too many lives ruined, but thanks to the bravery of some survivors like those on our first panel today, significant change has happened.
I am so inspired by the many survivors who found the strength to share their stories, report their assaults, and demand accountability, justice, and change. It is because of you that a light has been shined on this silent epidemic and so many improvements have been made—including more than 100 legislative actions over the last decade—on all aspects of military sexual assault.
So, like you, I also am a military sexual assault survivor, but unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted. 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.
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.
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 the Senate.
So, this is personal for me too—but it’s personal from two perspectives–as a commander who led my Airmen into combat and as a survivor of rape and betrayal.
I share the disgust of the failures of the military system and many commanders who failed in their responsibilities. But it is for this very reason that we must allow–we must demand–that commanders stay at the center of the solution and live up to the moral and legal responsibilities that come with being a commander. We must fix those distortions in the culture of our military that permit sexual harm towards women and, yes, some men as well.
We must educate, select, and further educate commanders who want to do the right thing but who are naive to the realities of sexual assault. We must ensure all commanders are trained and empowered to take legal action, prosecute fairly, and rid perpetrators from our ranks. And if the commander is the problem or fails in his or her duties, they must be removed and held harshly accountable.
I don’t take this position lightly. It has been framed often that some people are advocating for the victims while others are advocating for the command chain or military establishment. This is clearly a false choice. There are many commanders who would welcome taking this responsibility off their plate—those are the very commanders we don’t want leading our troops.
We cannot command change from the outside alone—it must be deployed within—it must be built, constantly maintained, and expertly managed by commanders who are themselves educated, conditioned and given the tools to ensure what you survived—and what I survived—happens to no warrior under their command.
To that end, I very strongly believe that the commander must not be removed from the decision making responsibility of preventing, detecting, and prosecuting military sexual assault.
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.

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