The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Star columnist Tim Steller’s Aug. 4 column about the confirmation of Gen. John Hyten and Sen. Martha McSally’s role in the review of allegations against him (“Time for McSally to disclose more about Air Force rape allegation”) was as illogical as it was stunningly insensitive.
Let’s start with some facts.
After Hyten was nominated to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former subordinate alleged that he had assaulted her. The allegation was fully investigated by the Air Force with over 60 people interviewed in three countries and 14 states.
Investigators reviewed over 4,000 pages of documents and 196,000 e-mails.
The resulting 1,400 page report was given to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which conducted its own review, including private testimony from both Hyten and the accuser under oath. No stone was left unturned.
McSally spent more time reviewing the facts of this case than anyone else in the Senate. To her credit, she knew that her view of the evidence would have disproportionate weight.
She took on the responsibility to find the truth even when the process of doing so was likely to have been more uncomfortable for her because she had been a victim.
She treated this case with the kind of seriousness that her constituents have a right to expect but too often doesn’t happen in Washington.
As a society, we have a duty to take all sexual assault allegations seriously. We also have a duty to conduct thorough and impartial investigations.
That is what happened in this instance — both in the Air Force, and in the Senate Armed Services Committee. After reviewing the evidence, a large bipartisan majority of the committee came to the same conclusion McSally and I did: Gen. Hyten was falsely accused.
With some remarkably twisted logic, Steller then suggests in his column that, because McSally did her duty based on the evidence in this case, she has an obligation to name her assailant from years ago.
Only 23 percent of women report sexual assault to law enforcement. McSally is part of the other 77 percent. While we should encourage more women to report and provide the support needed for them to do so, we must also recognize that survivors of assault need the freedom to process and report how they see fit.
Tim Steller has no right to demand anything of a victim of sexual assault.
Particularly noxious was Steller’s implication that, perhaps, McSally was disappointed that she didn’t get enough public attention when she revealed abuse at the hands of a former high school coach and has been seeking the limelight by disclosing her rape by a superior military officer.
This is victim-shaming.
The tragic irony here is that McSally could have taken the easy way out in this situation by voting against confirming Hyten irrespective of the evidence. No one would have blamed her.
But she didn’t. She did the hard work, explored the evidence, listened to the accuser and the accused. She showed backbone all too rare in public servants. She stood up and led.
Instead of kudos from Steller, the public was treated to stunning hubris masquerading as an argument.
In Steller’s world, a woman who does her job and seeks the truth when there is an allegation of sexual assault is obliged to reveal all of the details of a crime of a similar nature that was committed against her years ago. Sadly, demands like this are another reason victims choose to stay silent.
The Arizona Daily Star should have refused to print Steller’s screed. At a minimum, it owes McSally and other victims of assault an apology for having irresponsibly published such patently offensive nonsense.