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Martha McSally Says She Is a Survivor of Sexual Assault in the Military

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WASHINGTON — Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona and the first woman in the Air Force to fly in combat, said on Wednesday that she had been raped by a superior officer while serving, an experience that almost led her to quit the military after 18 years.

Ms. McSally, who previously spoke during her Senate campaign about being sexually abused in high school, disclosed that she was a survivor of sexual assault in remarks at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about preventing sexual assault in the military. In emotional testimony, she said she did not report the attack because she “didn’t trust the system at the time.”

“I thought I was strong, but felt powerless,” Ms. McSally said, pausing periodically throughout her remarks as she sought to maintain composure. “The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways.”

She said that she was horrified at how her account was handled when she later began to share what had happened as the military began to grapple with the problem of sexual assault within its ranks. Ms. McSally, a former member of the House, said it was an experience that led her to consider leaving the military.

“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,” Ms. McSally said. “It’s personal from two perspectives — as a commander who led my airmen into combat and as a survivor of rape and betrayal.”

Ms. McSally’s decision to share her experience as a survivor of sexual assault comes just over a month after Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, publicly said that she was a survivor of sexual assault.

“We are survivors together,” Ms. McSally concluded in her prepared remarks, “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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