US Republican Senator Martha McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, told a Senate panel that she was raped by a senior officer while serving in the Air Force.
McSally, who is regarded as a “war hero” said she did not report the assault, as she did not trust the system.
“Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again,” the congresswoman told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on sexual assault in the military. ” I didn’t report being sexually assaulted. Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time” she said.
Press TV reports: The senator, who spent 26 years in the force before retiring as a full colonel, said she almost resigned her commission because of the way her commanders treated her.
“I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused, and I thought I was strong, but felt powerless. The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways. And in one case I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer.”
McSally went on to describe how the system let her down when she finally found the courage to report the attack.
“I stayed silent for many years, but later in my career as a military grappled with scandals, and they’re wholly inadequate responses, I felt the need to let some people know I too was a survivor,” she explained.
“I was horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences were handled. I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years, over my despair. Like many victims I felt this system was raping me all over again,” she added.
“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’s 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.”
Air Force spokeswoman Captain Carrie Volpe said in a statement that the force was “appalled” by the revelation and would work to address the sexual assault issue in its ranks.
McSally became the first American female pilot to partake in war after the USAF lifted ban on female combat pilots in 1991. She flew the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft over Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Southern Watch.
She was also the first female commander of a USAF fighter squadron. McSally became senator in January after serving four years as a representative for the state of Arizona.
Sexual assault in the US military has long been a massive problem, with service members reporting more than 20,000 allegations of sexual assault at military installations over the past four years.
Sexual violence in the US armed forces is largely under-reported and came under renewed scrutiny last year after a scandal surfaced involving some Marines sharing nude photos of women on the internet.
In a report released in November, the US military’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office (SAPRO) said 20,300 sexual assault cases have been filed since 2013.