Air Force won’t investigate McSally’s rape disclosure
WASHINGTON – The Air Force said Friday that it had no plans to open an investigation into Sen. Martha McSally’s revelation that she was raped by a senior officer while serving in the Air Force.
In a statement, Ann Stefanek, chief of media operations, said the Air Force could not begin an inquiry until McSally agreed to participate in one or new information came to light.
“Given the senator’s desire to not participate in an investigation, the Air Force will remain ready to investigate further if the senator’s desire changes or other information is presented,” Stefanek said.
She said the Air Force “takes every allegation of sexual assault seriously, no matter when the allegation is made.”
In powerful public testimony Wednesday, McSally, R-Ariz., the first woman in the Air Force to fly in combat, told a Senate hearing room that she had been raped by a superior officer, one of multiple times she was sexually assaulted while she served her country.
In a Congress with a historic number of women, McSally’s revelation was another example of a female lawmaker coming forward to share a personal story of sexual assault. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said in January that she had been raped while she was in college, and had been emotionally and physically abused by her husband. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., has spoken openly of the domestic abuse she said she suffered in her marriage.
Any attempt by the Air Force to prosecute McSally’s attacker would now appear to be impossible because of a ruling made by the military’s highest court last month, just two weeks before McSally disclosed the rape publicly at the hearing on Capitol Hill.
On Feb. 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces threw out the conviction of an Air Force lieutenant colonel who had sexually assaulted a female enlisted subordinate because the case had been brought long after the expiration of the five-year statute of limitations on military rape cases that was still in effect in 2005, when that assault occurred.
While Congress amended the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 2006 to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape cases, the appeals court ruled that the case against the lieutenant colonel was required to have been brought within the statute of limitations in effect at the time.
Nothing in the 2006 amendment or its legislative history suggested that Congress intended to make the change to the code apply retroactively, the court wrote.
The net effect: Only rapes that occurred after Congress changed the military law in 2006 do not have a statute of limitations for prosecution. Those that occurred before the change are still subject to the five-year window. McSally has not said when she was raped.
But based on other details she provided – that she confided to people what had happened only later in her career, after she had been in the military for 18 years, which would have been about 2006 – it appears that the assault she disclosed most likely occurred before Congress changed the law.