WASHINGTON – At a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Arizona Republican Martha McSally disclosed that she had been sexually assaulted during her service in the Air Force.
“Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor,” McSally told a panelist during the hearing, which had been set up to explore sexual assault response and prevention.
McSally said she was raped by a superior officer and chose not to report it.
“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,” she said.
McSally, 52, is the first woman to fly in a U.S. combat mission and the first to command a fighter squadron in U.S. history, according to her official biography. She served in the Air Force for 26 years and retired as a full colonel in 2010.
The Air Force said it had no prior knowledge of the incident and expressed shock and anger.
“The criminal actions reported today by Senator McSally violate every part of what it means to be an Airman,” Capt. Carrie Volpe, an Air Force spokesperson, 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 behavior and breach of trust in our ranks.”
McSally was appointed to the Senate last December. Prior to that, she served four years in the House of Representatives.
McSally’s appointment came a month after she lost the general election to then-congresswoman-and-now-fellow-Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D).
Pentagon Correspondent Tom Squitieri contributed to this report.