The Sift Here’s what we’re Sifting today

GOP senator tells of sexual assault in the military

by Harvest Prude
Posted 3/07/19, 12:06 pm

WASHINGTON—Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., revealed in a Senate hearing Wednesday that a superior officer sexually assaulted her while she was in the Air Force. “My drive to fight against sexual assault in the ranks is not from the outside looking in … it is deeply personal,” she said during a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing on sexual assault in the military.

McSally was the first female U.S. fighter pilot to fly in combat and the first woman to command a fighter squadron. She did not name the officer who raped her and said she did not initially report her assault because she “didn’t trust the system at the time.” She said she later reported her experience and was so horrified by how the military handled it that she considered quitting. “I decided to stay and continue to serve and fight and lead,” said McSally, who retired after 26 years of service. Her testimony came a few weeks after another GOP senator, Joni Ernst of Iowa, revealed she was raped in college.

“We are appalled and deeply sorry for what Sen. McSally experienced, and we stand behind her and all victims of sexual assault,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Carrie Volpe said in a statement.

A 2018 Pentagon report revealed that in fiscal year 2017, the Department of Defense received 6,769 reports of sexual assault from military personnel, an almost 10 percent increase from 2016. A Pentagon survey also found a nearly 50 percent spike in reports of sexual assault at the Army, Navy, and Air Force service academies, from 507 in 2017 to 747 last year.

Read more from The Sift Sign up for The Sift email
Harvest Prude

Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

Read more from this writer


  • 1 Reality
    Posted: Thu, 03/07/2019 02:47 pm

    Imagine there's no Heaven, no countries, no possesions, nothing to live or die for, and no religion too, all people living just for today, but somehow sharing all the world and living life in peace.  Is the reason this isn't working out so well because it just isn't reality?  In this fallen world, there's only one remedy in reality, our Savior, Jesus Christ with power to forgive, reconcile, and make things great again.

  • Dan B
    Posted: Thu, 03/07/2019 03:20 pm

    I find articles like this bordering on useless.  Worse than useless, they are misleading.  These days, when “sexual assault” can mean anything from a lingering stare to gang rape, how is one supposed to evaluate “6,769 reports of sexual assault”?

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Thu, 03/07/2019 04:09 pm

    Because the military has clear guidelines for determining what is classified as sexual assault. It is a legitimate problem, and there is no reason to dismiss the stories and statistics associated with it. Real people—men and women—are attacked and traumatised by perpetrators. That deserves our attention and action. 

  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 03/08/2019 02:21 am

    Thank you, Hans.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 03/09/2019 10:51 am

    Dan B has a point for look at the latest definition from the US Army:

    1. What is sexual assault?

    Sexual Assault is a crime. Sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent.

    Sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy (o__or a___ sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact) or attempts to commits these acts.


    For the specific articles of sexual assault offenses under the UCMJ, see the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM).

    (*Reference- the DoD definition for sexual assault and other sex-related offenses for all training and education purposes).


    Having been in the military, I can tell you that oftentimes you find yourself in close quarters with your fellow soldiers. So let me paint a modern day scenario for you. Joe Angel is in a unit and a real attractive woman, Jane Femmy, is transferred in and one day after a day at the motor pool Angel asks Femmy out to get dinner. The answer is a “No!” but not just a “No”, more like a “drop dead No!”  

    The following week, Angel and Femmy are selected to go to the shooting range for practice. They are in the same platoon so they are paired up to shoot from a fox hole and as Joe is getting in he accidentally touches Femmy on the rear. He gets a look that could kill. Of course, Angel apologizes but Femmy just looks at him with a deadly stare. A few weeks later, they go to field and while in the vehicle Angel again accidentally brushes against Femmy and she tells him where to go.  Angel again apologizes. A couple days later Angel and Femmy have guard duty. Waking up at 2:00 hours, Angel is tired and is about to rise up. It is real dark and he puts his hand out not wanting to hit the steel bar, but doesn’t realize that Femmy just came back and is standing directly in front of him. His hand touches Femmy in the breast. The next morning Femmy reports Angel to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and files a complaint of sexual assault. 

    Now Joe Angel never meant to do anything against Jane Femmy but she took his inappropriate touching as if he intended sexual assault.  But the story could be turned around where it wasn’t Joe Angel but Joe Pervert! In this case all the touching was intentional where he intended to assault Femmy! Who would be guilty and who would be innocent? If you had to judge the case how would you know the difference between the two cases?

    Note: when I say “all these rules” I am not saying they should get rid of any of the very clear rules which constitutes sexual assault. Sexual assault is wrong and these clear definitions should not be tolerated! Where it becomes murky is with the more ambiguous definition like the following:

    “and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact) or attempts to commit these acts.”

    The term ”inappropriate sexual contact” could mean a lot of things to different people! 

  • Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Fri, 03/08/2019 09:35 pm

    Cyborg3, I think that's a stretch. You might not have had to develop a sixth sense about this, but most women have. Women in the military should be hyper aware and, according to the statistics, for good reason. They know when they're being targeted for violence. If a female soldier is inadvertently touched, that's one thing. If it happens again by the same guy or who he hangs out with, it's intended. My sister was in Reserve basic training decades ago, and she had to watch out for occasional unwanted female touching too. 

    This is not made up or histrionics or #metoo revenge. It's assault, and it's scary for our sisters and daughters. They should know going in what they're up against, but the military can do better. 

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 03/09/2019 02:07 am

    Deb, have you ever been in a tank or armored carrier? I can tell you it can be a rough ride and it is not uncommon to brush against someone, bump into someone, or accidentally touch them. The quarters are cramped and they have you working days on end during field training with little sleep! It is all part of the training. If you are in a fox hole and you bend over to get something you dropped, you are likely to bump your fellow soldier in the rear. You need to understand that during field you are around your guys/gals in your vehicle 24/7.  I wouldn’t want to be in todays army with female soldiers around and all these sexual assault rules. You get one over sensitive gal around and you could likely face a court martial! Here I am not saying men should not be careful, but the military is not the civilian world. Your response would be just what I would be worried about. You accidentally touch a woman a couple times and the “she knows” instinct kicks in and you are being charged with sexual assault!  

    The scenario I painted about the dark night is one I vividly remember many years ago. It was pitch black out and I remember reaching out my hand because I couldn’t see anything, while I was getting up for guard duty. The guy who I was supposed to replace came up to me and I nearly knocked him in his head.  It startled me because the soldier was directly in front of me and I couldn’t see him!

    I understand well that sexual assault is an epidemic in the military. Even in my day, I remember hearing stories about it. Women were not in combat roles when I was in. Quite frankly, I think this is the better approach! So sexual assault should be taken seriously and dealt with fairly, but the scenario I presented (first one) should also be considered so men aren’t being falsely punished. Also, the point of the post was showing the difficulty that some sexual assault cases would present. I do agree the military needs to do better!

  • news2me
    Posted: Thu, 03/07/2019 04:28 pm

    I wonder how Israel handles this. They draft men and women into the military. 

    I hope this puts a light on how women are treated. Women need to be taught defense from assault.


  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Fri, 03/08/2019 06:26 am

    It certainly would help if we could all agree on some guidelines.  I wonder about oportunity and follow up in the WWII era.  It seems the military is treating people as if their sex drive doesn't matter until it does.  Every accusation should be investigated and every crime punished but an almost puritanical code of honor/conduct would have to be enforced to lessen the problem.  We may have gone to far already.