Congress Investigation into Fort Hood

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

By Emma Gilham

The summer of 2020 has been one of reckoning. Calls for accountability can be heard from almost all walks of life. We want answers and responsibility. Congress announced it will be opening an investigation into Fort Hood, Texas to find out if the 28 deaths at the station this year “may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.” As one may recall, Fort Hood was the location of the sexual assault, disappearance, and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. While this action is long overdue, I can’t help but wonder what they will discover (if anything) that we don’t already know about sexual assault in the military. From the fiscal year of 2016 to the fiscal year of 2018, the rate of sexual assault and rape experienced by all Service members jumped by almost 40%, but for women the rate increased by over 50% to the highest level since 2006. The United States Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (DOD SAPRO) already claims to be providing a holistic approach to combatting this issue, while we see no significant changes. In the DOD SAPRO fiscal year report of 2019, active duty focus group members “… believe senior leaders are actively driving change in the field.” The report also claims that the climate is changing due to younger recruits with increased awareness of inappropriate behaviors: “Junior leaders are on the frontline of the fight to eradicate these problems in our units and must serve as role models in this effort.” While I agree with the need to educate young leaders in the force, problems seem to be stemming from them as well as more entrenched military personnel. The data collected by the DOD SAPRO from FY2019 and FY2018 both indicate that many sexual assaulters are at the victim’s grade or higher. “Of women who reported a penetrative sexual assault, 59% were assaulted by someone with a higher rank than them, and 24% were assaulted by someone in their chain of command” (FY2018). After reading these reports, I have several questions: What is being done to educate and hold higher ranking officers accountable? How can this specific investigation into Fort Hood improve the issues that have perpetrated and presented themselves in the military for decades? Overall, I will be pleased if this investigation helps end the apparent climate of violence in the military, yet I cannot say I am too hopeful. However, I’m tired of the lack of transparency, and I think it’s safe to say that we are all ready for answers.