Image Credits: AP Photo

Martha McSally is a freshman senator for Arizona. She was appointed to fill the hole left by the late Senator John McCain. Senator McSally is a retired Air Force colonel. She also just happens to be the first female to fly a fighter jet in combat and the first female commander of a fighter squadron. Martha McSally had it all going for her, until it wasn’t.

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, Senator McSally shared her story with the world in a hearing on preventing sexual assault in the military. Senator McSally told us that she had been raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. Many witnesses were at this hearing who were testifying to their experiences of their own sexual assaults while serving. Senator McSally said “Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor. But unlike so many other brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted. Like so many men and women, I didn’t trust the system at the time.” Senator McSally went on to share that she was ashamed and confused. She felt powerless to the seniority and the system she didn’t trust.

But this wasn’t the first time Senator McSally has shared her personal sexual assault experiences. When she was running for Senate last year, she shared her story of being pressured to have sex with a high school coach into having sex with him when she was only 17. She kept this to herself until she came forward to share her story after witnessing a failed system with her sexual assault during her time with the Air Force.

According to the Department of Defense, 6,769 reports of sexual assault were made involving a service member. During the hearing, Senator McSally said that “witnessed so many weaknesses” when she served, including the backlash that many survivors face after they come forward.

Senator McSally was incredibly brave sharing her story with us and her strength when sharing her story is awe-inspiring. Let me make one thing clear: sexual assault survivors who live silently with their stories are just as brave as those who share theirs.

I hope that Senator McSally’s story resonates with survivors who feel like they are alone, especially those who serve in the military in any capacity. I hope her words ring loudly in the ears of everyone who has passed the buck when it comes to sexual assaults being mishandled within our armed services system. Lastly, I hope her words scare the perpetrators and haunt them forever because that is the least they deserve.

It is time for sexual assault prevention to take hold. It’s time sexual assault stop being made political for the gain of one party or the other. Sexual assault is a human rights issue that must be addressed by our whole country instead of constantly being pushed aside, especially within our military.

Senator McSally, you’ve inspired many with your story. The amount of courage it took to share your story on a national level is insurmountable. Thank you for giving survivors someone to look up to and someone to connect with. You’ve shown that everyone, regardless of circumstance, is at risk of being a victim to an evil human, flawed system, and a society that fails survivors but that with the strength from within, you can get through this in time.

Thank you.

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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