Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, a former Air Force colonel and one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress, revealed she was raped by a superior officer during her military career but kept the attack secret out of fear of reprisal.
“Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time,” she said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “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.”
The revelation came as the committee heard from other military sexual assault victims, and questioned Pentagon officials on whether have done enough to address the problem.
McSally, a Republican lawmaker who has been an outspoken voice on issues of equality of women in the ranks, served in the Air Force from 1988 to 2010. She was the first military woman to fly in combat after the military lifted rules barring them from those pilot posts, and provided close-air support during operations in Iraq and Kuwait as part of Operation Southern Watch.
She did not say when the assault occurred or who her attacker was, but did say she did not discuss it with anyone until years later.