GOP senator requests meeting with Air Force leaders to discuss sexual assault

GOP senator requests meeting with Air Force leaders to discuss sexual assault
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday requested a meeting with top Air Force leaders to discuss tackling the issue of sexual assault in the service, a week after she announced that she was raped by a superior years ago while serving in the military branch.

McSally, a former A-10 pilot and squadron commander, wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson requesting an executive summit with Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, and other senior Air Force leaders and policy experts within the next 30 days.

"Despite a number of positive changes over the past several years, we have not seen a significant reduction [in] sexual assault reports or increase in convictions within the Air Force or across the services," McSally wrote.

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"While there are some positive trends, the latest [Department of Defense] annual report on sexual assault still shows that as many as 5,277 service members made reports of sexual assault for incidents that occurred sometime during military service," she continued. "And these were just the women and men who bravely chose to report their assault. This is simply unacceptable."

McSally's letter came days after she told a stunned congressional hearing about her own experience as a military sexual assault survivor.

"The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways, and in one case I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer," she said during the Senate Armed Services subcommittee last week.

She said her experience almost led her to quit the service after 18 years, and she urged the military to "ensure all commanders are trained and empowered to take legal action, prosecute fairly and rid perpetrators from our ranks."

The Air Force has since said in a statement that leaders were "appalled" and "deeply sorry" for McSally's reported experience.

The military in the past several years has attempted to combat sexual assault and harassment following a string of scandals, though it has continued to struggle with the problem despite numerous initiatives.

"I firmly believe that commanders must be fully responsible for preventing and responding to sexual assault in the ranks," McSally wrote in her letter Wednesday. "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."