U.S. Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona claimed that Wednesday she was raped while she served in the military.
McSally, a freshman Republican, made the claim during a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military.
“So like you,” McSally said to witnesses, “I am also a military sexual assault survivor.”
McSally said she did not report the incident because she did not trust the system. “Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again. But I didn’t quit, I decided to stay.”
She added that, “we’ve come a long way to stop military sexual assault but we have a long way to go.”
Committee member Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-New York, thanked McSally for sharing her story, saying that she was “deeply affected by that testimony.”
Gillibrand and McSally, then a U.S representative, had both pledged to help a whistleblower, former Cadet Eric Thomas, who was instrumental in exposing sexual assaults at the U. S. Air Force Academy in an investigation dubbed Operation Gridiron.
Thomas, whose undercover work was key to the convictions of sexual predators in the Academy, was retaliated against by Air Force personnel and as a result was dismissed from the Academy within weeks of graduating.
He was qualified as a pilot at the time and had orders to serve at Vance Air Force base.
Neither of the women followed through on Thomas’ case.
Thomas was honored on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives by Rep. Bob Thorpe last March. Thomas lead the Pledge of Allegiance before floor session and later, Thorpe’s fellow legislators signed onto a letter to General Mattis, then the Secretary of Defense, asking for a full and impartial investigation into the matter.
In his letter to Mattis and U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Thorpe called for officials to “investigate, and hopefully, rectify an injustice dealt” to Thomas.
At the time, the ADI reported, “Thomas was received on the floor last week as the hero he is with one exception. A cynical legislator, who happens to be a National Guard pilot, approached Thomas and his mother and asked how others could trust him after he betrayed his ‘brothers in blue.’ Thomas did not have time to respond before his mom answered, ‘the women he saved were in blue too.'”
Recently, Thomas’ mother, Rosita, while visiting the Washington D.C. area, had the opportunity to visit with Mattis and he advised her that he never received the letter.
Thomas had asked McSally’s staff for an audience in order to show her new testimony and the contradictions with the various reports generated over the years before sending the letter to Wilson, but was denied that opportunity.
Shortly after he was honored by Arizona State representatives, then-Congresswoman McSally was gearing up for a heated Senate campaign. Her staff advised Thomas and his mother – after being reminded that the Congresswoman had promised to provide assistance – that she had sent a letter off to Wilson as well.
On Thursday, Thorpe told the ADI that he would be reaching out to McSally to see how he might help her keep her promise.