Sen. Martha McSally, a rape survivor, asks Air Force for expedited summit on military sexual assault

Freshman Sen. Martha McSally, who shared last week during a congressional hearing that she had been raped by a superior while serving in the Air Force, is now calling on the Air Force to hold an immediate summit on sexual assault in the military.

In a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on Wednesday, McSally (R-Ariz.) asked that she convene other senior leaders and policy experts within the next month for the discussion.

“I firmly believe that commanders must be fully responsible for preventing and responding to sexual assault in the ranks,” she wrote. “However, if we truly want to see aggressive change, we must take a fresh look at what else needs to be done in our approach to education, prevention, investigation and prosecution of these crimes.”

During a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military, McSally delivered an emotional statement revealing her own abuse and her fear of reporting it.

It was years later, as the military started to publicly grapple with a systematic problem with sexual assault in its ranks, that McSally decided to tell the Air Force what happened to her.

“I felt the need to let some people know I, too, was a survivor,” she said during the hearing. “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.”

In her letter to Wilson, McSally cited statistics from the Department of Defense’s annual report on sexual assault. In fiscal 2017, 5,277 service members reported a sexual assault that occurred during their military service.

“And these were just the women and men who bravely chose to report their assault,” McSally wrote. “This is simply unacceptable.”

The DoD report showed a 10 percent increase in sexual assault reports by service members. But officials said at the time that it was a result of more people coming forward, not that there was an increase in incidents.

The issue of sexual assault in the military entered the public consciousness around 2013. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), now a presidential candidate, took the lead on legislation that year that would have removed commanders from handling sexual assault cases to avoid conflicts of interest or discomfort for the victim.

But McSally does not agree that the military’s chain of command should be removed from decision-making around sexual assault cases.

Instead, she wants the commanders to take responsibility for changing the culture, which is why she is urging them to hold the expedited summit.

www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-martha-mcsally-a-rape-survivor-asks-air-force-for-expedited-summit-on-military-sexual-assault/2019/03/13/73adaad4-45d9-11e9-aaf8-4512a6fe3439_story.html

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