Sen. McSally introduces bill to address the 'cancer' of military sexual assault

Elizabeth Howe
May 15, 2019 - 2:22 pm

Photo courtesy of DVIDS

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This year, Senator Martha McSally, R-Ariz., revealed that she was raped by a superior officer while she was in the Air Force. 

“I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years of service over my despair,” said McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. “Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again.” 

Senator reveals she was raped by a superior officer while in the Air Force

Since coming forward as a victim of sexual assault, McSally has taken steps to address the issue of military sexual assault in a way that previous lawmakers have not. 

"I never thought I'd be in this position, but as a former commander and a survivor of military sexual assault I felt compelled to use my voice and make a difference," McSally said. "And as a senator, that means I can do something about it and combat the issue and really make a difference."

Now, she has introduced a new bill to address sexual assault in the military that aims to strengthen prevention and training, victim support, investigation, and prosecution processes. 

The bill introduced today is the culmination of the past two months of research and work — McSally visited all of Arizona's military installations to speak with commanders, judge advocates, investigators, and victim support personnel. McSally's bill focus on improving four key problem areas that were identified through her team's research. 

  • Prevention and Training: Direct the Department of Defense will conduct additional research on effective sexual assault programs and standardize and modernize training across services.
  • Victim Support: Provide victims with additional resources, options, and programs not previously readily available
  • Investigation: Ensure military judges have similar authority as civilian judges with relation to pre-trial issues and increase digital forensic capabilities
  • Prosecution: Modify the manual for Courts-Martial to add a specific offense for "sexual harassment" and promote timely public access to military justice documents 

"This all comes from recent feedback from those who have been through the process," McSally said. "We've made many changes in the last several years ... But it's not enough."

McSally: Air Force needs an executive summit on sexual assault

The latest DoD annual report on sexual assault revealed that 5,277 service members made reports of sexual assault for incidents that occurred during military service. Specifically, at service academies, the number of cadets reporting unwanted sexual encounters increased from 507 to 747 during the 2017-2018 academic year — a 47 percent increase.  

Sexual assault at service academies: 'This isn’t a blip, a #MeToo bump, or some accident'

McSally is hopeful that provisions of this bill will be included in the National Defense Authorization Act, scheduled to be reviewed in the Senate Armed Services Committee next week.

"This is something that is a cancer that continues to impact the organization until it's resolved," McSally said. "The impact that it can have every day is unnecessary." 

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