A Serious Problem

Most Americans are unaware of the extent of the problem we have with sexual assault in the military in this country. According to The New York Times, “You are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow service member than be shot by an enemy at war.” That’s quite a disturbing statement.

Consider the case of twenty-year-old Specialist Vanessa Guillén.  Stars and Stripes reported that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by a supervisor at Fort Hood. A later investigation found that her chain of command did not take appropriate action regarding her complaints. It also found that this supervisor promoted “an intimidating, hostile environment.” 

Later, she was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered by another soldier. Her body was dismembered, and her remains were buried with the help of the killer’s girlfriend.

As law enforcement was getting close to apprehending the suspected killer, Specialist Aaron Robinson took his own life.

Specialist Guillén’s brutal sexual assault and subsequent murder brought shock waves through the Army community. It also brought numerous disciplinary actions and, eventually, new policies on how victims of sexual assault should report what has happened to them.

Specialist Vanessa Guillén
Official Army portrait of SPC Vanessa Guillén, taken in 2018. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


The sexual assault and killing prompted a Department of Defense-wide investigation. If you would like to access the FY 2020 Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, you can do that here. The report tells us that in the fiscal year 2020, there were 6,290 reports of sexual assaults in the US armed forces. In addition, 912 civilian and foreign nationals filed reports of sexual assault against service members that year.

New Prevention Initiatives

The Office of Special Trial Counsel (OSTC) was established on July 15th, 2022, by General Order 2022-10. You can view those orders here if you’d like. According to the Army, the office will be limited to prosecuting specific offenses such as (but not limited to) rape, sexual assault, child pornography, and “other sexual misconduct.” The OSTC will also prosecute cases of kidnapping, stalking, retaliation, domestic violence, kidnapping, and something called  “wrongful broadcast.”