In the Wall Street Journal today, Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ) spoke publicly for the first time about being sexually abused by her high school track coach when she was 17 years old.
After her father died when she was in middle school, McSally focused on sports, running cross-country and track and throwing the javelin for her high school in Rhode Island.
According to her interview with the WSJ, her coach pressured “McSally into having sex with him” and “used a variety of psychological tactics to keep her silent.”
McSally told the WSJ, “It took a while for me to come to a place where I understood what the hell I had been through. At the time, I was so afraid. I now understand—like many girls and boys who are abused by people in authority over them—there’s a lot of fear and manipulation and shame.”
Fortunately, the teenage McSally told two adult women in her life about the abuse, one of whom informed the school’s principal without disclosing McSally’s identity. That woman told the WSJ the school immediately fired the track coach, who was identified as Jack Dwyer using McSally’s school’s 1984 yearbook, though he told the WSJ he resigned to take another job. Dwyer denied the allegations and called McSally “the most scheming woman I ever met.”
Now 52 years old, McSally considered legal options against the coach a decade after the abuse occurred, but her options were limited, due to her age (Rhode Island law criminalizes most consensual sex with individuals under 16) and the statute of limitations.
McSally, who is running for the Arizona U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Senator Jeff Flake, was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat (1995) and the first woman to command a combat aviation unit (2004).
She told the WSJ she thinks she became “an endurance athlete and a fighter pilot because I was looking for ways to not be powerless.”
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.