Former Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said she was sexually assaulted by a man as she ran along the Missouri River near Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday.
McSally, who has previously spoken out about being raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force, said in an Instagram video that a man grabbed her from behind in a “bear hug,” but that she ultimately managed to dispel him.
“He molested and fondled me until I fought him off,” she said.
“I was in a fight-flight-or-freeze, and I chose to fight. I ran after him, I threw my water bottle at him, and I chased him into the brush, where he was then hiding as I called 911 and waited for the police to come,” she said. “I don’t think they found him, and I’m OK.”
McSally, who said she was in Omaha to give a speech on “courage and heart, and how to be a brave heart,” said the incident triggered memories of past abuse she’s experienced but that she has largely healed from ― “as much as I feel can be done.”
“In this case, I felt like I took my power back,” she said. “He tried to take power from me, but I turned it on him, and he was running from me instead of the other way around.”
“In this case, I felt like I took my power back. He tried to take power from me, but I turned it on him, and he was running from me.”
– Former Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)
The incident was reported just before 11 a.m. near the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, near the I-480 overpass, according to an incident report shared with HuffPost by the City of Council Bluffs Police Department.
A search for the suspect ― described as a white or Hispanic male, 25 to 40 years old, with a stocky build ― was not successful, and no arrests had been made as of Thursday morning, police said.
McSally spoke out in 2019 about being raped by a superior officer during her 26 years of service in the Air Force. She said she didn’t report the incident when it first happened because “like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time.”
Overall, the number of reports of assault in the U.S. military has increased since 2010. Not all victims report their assaults, and of those who do, many have reported experiencing retaliation.
In 2018, while running for the Senate, McSally also alleged to The Wall Street Journal that she was sexually abused by her high school track coach when she was 17.
“Even though he didn’t physically force me, it certainly was an emotional manipulation,” she said of her former coach, who was two decades older than her.
McSally left the Senate in 2020 after losing a special election for the late Sen. John McCain’s seat.
One in every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, an anti-sexual violence organization.
Of the total incidents that take place, among all genders, more than 2 out of 3 go unreported, the organization says.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.