Sexual assault in the US army has once again come under the spotlight as service members and veterans take to social media to share stories of sexual harassment in the military amid an investigation into the murder of a female soldier.
Army investigators said, this week, they identified human remains of a soldier who vanished from a base in Texas more than two months ago.
Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, had been missing since April and was last seen in the parking lot of her barracks at Fort Hood on April 22, according to the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID). Her remains were found June 30.
Guillen was killed by a hammer in the armory room where she worked. Her body was transported from the military installation by her killer, attorney Natalie Khawam said.
She was killed and dismembered by a superior, Aaron David Robinson, who took his own life last week, federal and military investigators have said.
Khawam said the family told her that Guillen had planned to file a harassment complaint against Robinson and that they believe Robinson became enraged when she told him that.
Under the hashtag #IamVanessaGuillen, military members, veterans and users call for justice for Guillen and an end to what her family and advocates call an "epidemic" of sexual violence in the armed services, the USA Today said.
They offered support to the Guillen family and share their own stories of sexual assault while in uniform.
Many recounted being raped by a superior, drugged or abused in their own bunks at night.
“The #IamVanessaGuillen hashtag, I think, is really the first time that military men and women have felt empowered to speak out. The military hasn’t had their #MeToo movement yet, until now," said Col. Don Christensen, former chief prosecutor of the Air Force and president of Protect Our Defenders, a national organization dedicated to ending rape and sexual assault in the military.
Vanessa’s sister, Mayra said last week that her sister spoke with their mother about experiencing sexual harassment and being afraid during her time at Fort Hood military base.
Guillen's family has demanded justice and called for a congressional investigation into the Fort Hood.
Attorney Khawam said sexual harassment in the military is an "epidemic" and demanded attention from Congress.
“You can’t turn a blind eye anymore," she said.
Fort Hood officials said they were not aware of reports of sexual harassment involving Robinson but the investigation was ongoing, CNN reported.
Pentagon said in April that reports of sexual assault in the US military increased 3% in 2019. Another Pentagon report released last year found a 38% increase in assaults from 2016 to 2018 after years of focused effort and resources to eradicate such incidents.
The US organization, Protect Our Defenders also said the rate of sexual assault and rape in the US military jumped by almost 40% from 2016 to 2018.