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Amid Continued Anger About Vanessa Guillen’s Death, Critics Say The Army Often Ignores Sex Crimes

 November 9, 2020 at 10:20 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Critics say the army, isn't doing enough to address sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks. The outcry comes after the killing, the spring of Fort hood soldier, Vanessa Guian. Her family says Gillian's alleged killer had been harassing her, but she was afraid to report it. But army leaders say they are addressing the issue from San Antonio, Jolene Olen, Doris reports for the American Homefront. Thousands of people have joined forces online and in protests across the country to make their voices heard about rape sexual harassment and assault in the military, San Antonio army veteran, Sarah is one of them. She says she experienced everything from sexual comments to attempted rape. It started in basic training and then got worse. That's when everything else started happening, like the guy slapping my , making comments about the things that they would do. And I mean, and it went all the way from privates to master Sergeant Sarah asked that we not use her last name because she fears harassment or revenge. Speaker 1: 01:02 She says those kinds of sexual comments were normal in the military. You work in an environment as a female, and it's a predominantly male environment. And men talk, you know, men say things that they shouldn't say. And it's just a joke. I mean, we had guys that would come in and tell us about what they did to their wife. Last night. Sarah says Sergeant sexually assaulted her after a night, uh, playing pool and drinking. He took photos of her and showed other soldiers they worked with. She says later, a Lieutenant tried to rape her at a friend's apartment. The army says none of this is supposed to happen in 2006. It launched the sexual harassment assault response and prevention program called sharp. Jim Helis oversees the army sharp program. Speaker 2: 01:45 These were issues of critical importance, not only to our readiness, but to taking care of soldiers is an importance to every commander up and down the chain of command. Speaker 1: 01:55 This is how he says sharp is supposed to work. Soldiers who are harassed or assaulted can file either a restricted or unrestricted report. Restricted reports allow them to get medical help and other services and are withheld from the chain of command, but they can't seek legal action against the perpetrator. Unrestricted reports allow legal action, but the soldiers chain of command is told about the investigation. According to the department of defense, about 25% of women in the military reported sexual harassment in 2018, the numbers increased about 10%. The next year reported sexual assault increased about 3%, but the army doesn't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Helis says it's a sign that the sharp program is making a difference. Speaker 2: 02:37 What we've seen over the last several years is we've seen increases in the numbers of reports and the percentage of cases, uh, that are being reported with women. I take that assigns that there is an increasing competence in the chain of command and in confidence in the system to, uh, to, to report incidents of sexual assault, sexual harassment. There's no to know if the increased Speaker 1: 03:00 Number of reports are because the sharp program is working well or more people are being victimized, but there's a gap in what is being reported and what people are experiencing. For instance, Sarah never reported the comments, sexual assault or attempt. So I had other friends that I would talk to and they would tell me like, well, I made a sharp complaint and nothing ever got done about it. And her experience in the army, isn't unique. I can't think of one woman that say she's never experienced sexual harassment. Deshauna barber CEO of the service women's action network known as Swan. She's been an army reservist for around 10 years. Barbara said army culture at Lexa, basic understanding of what sexual harassment means, despite regular training on it. And she says, even when sex crimes are reported, perpetrators aren't necessarily discharged from the army or even prosecuted. I see soldiers get kicked out the military so often for, for DYS and drug related offenses. I have yet to see someone get kicked out for sexual wrestler, sexual assault. And that is the absolute problem. There are efforts in Congress to take on some of the barriers soldiers face when reporting sex crimes, but unless the military culture changes activists say that might still not be enough. I'm Jolene almond. Data's in San Antonio.

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Following Guillen's killing, the Army launched an independent investigation into the climate of Fort Hood, but critics say the problems are systemic.
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