Problems in handling of sex crimes in the military are well documented – from rarely punishing those accused of sexual assault, to harassing and retaliating against victims, to firing those hired to protect the victims. Sexual assaults happen on base, and on deployment, and have been documented through time.
But still the military didn’t address them for years and years. Until the disappearance and murder of Vanessa Guillen in Fort Hood Army base in Texas sparked a military #MeToo movement that they couldn’t control. Guillén disappearing after telling her family about sexual harassment spurred many service members and veterans to share their own stories about assault and harassment on social media with the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen. This uproar, and the Guillén family’s persistence in finding Vanessa, has forced the military to face its betrayal of soldiers.
CBS reported on status of this in a multipart series that ran in November 2020. Military sexual assault survivors claim a broken system. Another segment covered victim advocates who were fired from the military for calling the military out on problems they had witnessed. One of those whistleblowers is Lindsey Knapp who had worked at Ft. Bragg. CBS had done a year-and-a-half-long investigation to create the series, and uncovered failures by leaders to address the issue.
An independent panel of five experts investigated the handling of Vanessa Guillén’s murder, other disappearances, and sex crimes at Fort Hood. They didn’t find her body until 3 months after she was murdered on base, vanishing mid-shift with all of her things left behind. Findings and actions were announced on December 8, by the Secretary of the Military. Actions included terminations and suspensions of 14 people, recognition that “many victims were afraid to report sexual harassment or assault and that it is an army-wide problem. ” They have committed to making more changes in its handling of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and soldier disappearances.
Fort Hood is the third largest military base in the world by population with 217,000 soldiers, and Fort Bragg in North Carolina is the largest, with 260,000 soldiers, family members and civilian personnel. Fayetteville Chapter of NOW has long worked with Rape Crisis of Cumberland County in helping sexual assault survivors, including those from Fort Bragg. Rape Crisis of Cumberland County has had to handle more and more cases over the past many years.
Fayetteville NOW, Raleigh NOW and NC NOW have organized a panel to hear from the experts who deal with survivors of sexual assault about issues that Ft. Bragg needs to address, and to give Ft. Bragg an opportunity to talk about how changes Ft. Bragg is making to address well-known problems, as a result of the Fort Hood report findings.
Event: Military #MeToo Reaches Ft. Bragg: Issues Ft. Bragg Needs To Address
Date: Thursday, January 7, 2021
Time: 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Place: Zoom, register at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_tDmFsxs6Sraao-S6LZmLcQ
Note: register in advance for this webinar. You will receive a confirmation email on how to join
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/219692489597322
- Deanne Gerdes, Executive Director of Rape Crisis of Cumberland County
- Lindsey Knapp, Esq, Executive Director of Combat Sexual Assault
- Captain Erin Scanlon (US Army, Ret), sexual assault survivor and victim advocate
- (Invited) Robert Louden, SHARP Program Manager at XVIII Airborne Corps and Ft. Bragg
- Shelia Leese-Roberts, LCSW, VA Military Trauma Support (MST) Coordinator
Note: The Army’s SHARP program stands for Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention