April 20, 2024


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‘The military’s #MeToo moment:’ Fort Hood victims speak out

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Maria Valentine suggests she was just months into her education at Fort Hood, a U.S. Military foundation in Texas, in 2006 when a sergeant with a historical past of alleged harassment towards other troopers wrote her up just after she complained that she did not want him touching her in the course of physique mass measurements.

She explained authorities promised the disciplinary report would be wiped from her history if she didn’t make a official grievance. Valentine’s final decision not to file 1 would haunt her a long time later on when she learned a different woman experienced accused the identical sergeant of rape.

Valentine is a person of five females – two active responsibility soldiers, two veterans and a single civilian – who spoke to The Connected Press about suffering from harassment, assault or rape by soldiers at Fort Hood, the other four since 2014.

Recent and previous troopers have taken to social media with their very own accounts of sexual assault and harassment at the foundation adhering to the disappearance and slaying this calendar year of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose spouse and children customers say was sexually harassed by the soldier who inevitably killed her.

“I wasn’t shocked,” Valentine reported after learning about Guillen’s tale. “That was the ecosystem. I dwell with the regret that I did not go by means of with the complaint.”

Maj. Gabriela Thompson, a Fort Hood spokeswoman, advised the AP she had no information and facts about Valentine’s allegation.

Associates of Congress released an investigation of Fort Hood in September soon after Sgt. Elder Fernandes was observed useless on Aug. 25 hanging from a tree in Temple, Texas, months just after reporting sexual harassment.

Guillen and Fernandes are amongst 28 soldiers at the base to have died this 12 months, which includes five homicides and 6 suicides, in accordance to Military information. Military Secretary Ryan McCarthy suggests that centered on Fort Hood’s average of 129 violent crimes among 2015 and 2019, it has a person of the optimum violent criminal offense fees between Military installations.

The Affiliated Press normally does not publish the names of sex abuse victims, but two women who stated they were sexually assaulted by troopers at Fort Hood decided to speak on the history to describe what they say is a disturbing culture at the foundation. A lot of victims have come to be connected by sharing their experiences making use of the hashtag #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN.

Between them is Deborah Urquidez, who informed the AP she was raped by the similar sergeant, Workers Sgt. Roberto Jimenez, Valentine claimed harassed her much more than a ten years previously.

Urquidez said her relationship with Jimenez in 2014 commenced consensually, but that later on he raped her even though a friend desperately experimented with to crack into the area to stop him. Then came months of stalking, threatening messages and a lengthy fight in military courtroom in which he was discovered not guilty, in accordance to court paperwork obtained by the AP. Urquidez was given a momentary navy protecting order against the sergeant for an “alleged sexual assault.”

The Office of Veterans Affairs considers her forever disabled following she noted the rape and the trauma, which incorporated multiple suicide makes an attempt, in accordance to files attained by the AP.

“There was in no way justice for me,” Urquidez mentioned. “In any other planet, what much more evidence do you need?”

Jimenez later on filed for a protecting purchase towards Urquidez. A Fort Hood spokesperson said the Army’s Felony Investigation Command investigated and the accused was acquitted of all expenses next a navy court docket martial in 2017. He remains on energetic responsibility at Fort Bliss. Officials from Fort Bliss did not provide comment from Jimenez.

But Fort Bliss claimed the foundation retains the very same specifications from sexual harassment and sexual assault as the U.S. Military and takes all studies seriously and investigates them quickly.

Kaitlyn Buxton, a civilian, stated her partner, Brandon Espindola, then stationed at Fort Hood conquer her several moments and raped her in 2018 at their off-base apartment in Killeen. On one situation at the barracks, he pinned her down and regularly punched her in the encounter although she screamed for support, Buxton said.

A Fort Hood officer went with his wife to their condominium through one altercation just after Buxton named for assist. Buxton explained users of Espindola’s chain of command observed her system bruised on much more than one particular situation.

The Killeen Police Office sooner or later granted Buxton a protecting get and charged Espindola with assault with bodily injury and assault by strangulation, but records demonstrate he bonded out and the case was shut.

Buxton claimed armed service law enforcement have taken no action on a independent situation she submitted in 2018, which was briefly closed and then reopened this past August. Espindola has given that been discharged from the Army on unrelated matters.

“The whole procedure has been a regular victimization,” Buxton stated. “No matter what I do, my voice is not getting read.”

Sean Timmons, Espindola’s lawyer, explained his customer “maintains his innocence to all allegations and rates and thinks they are fabricated.” The Killeen Law enforcement Department did not reply to a ask for for comment. A Fort Hood spokesperson claimed they had no information on this allegation.

According to a federal criticism, the soldier who killed Guillen, Aaron Robinson, died by suicide in July when confronted by police. Natalie Khawam, who represents the Guillen relatives, advised the AP that Guillen shared with loved ones customers that a soldier of exceptional rank walked in and watched her when she was showering. Khawam reported Guillen was much too terrified to file a report.

McCarthy claimed although it is thought Guillen faced other forms of harassment at Fort Hood, officers have discovered no report or evidence that she was sexually harassed. Due to the fact then, an independent inquiry of command climate has been purchased at the Texas foundation, in addition to the ongoing investigation into the command response to Guillen’s disappearance and death.

In a press conference the early morning after Fernandes’ body was found, Lupe Guillen, the younger sister of Vanessa Guillen, claimed Fernandes was an case in point of why her sister did not report the harassment she seasoned.

“How quite a few extra need to die at Fort Hood for them to be held accountable?” Lupe Guillen explained. “How many more have to be sexually harassed?”

Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who is among the members of Congress investigating Fort Hood, coauthored the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act. It aims to expand measures aimed at blocking sexual assault and harassment involving U.S. armed forces personnel, which includes codifying sexual harassment as a crime in military services legislation and removing conclusions on regardless of whether to prosecute sexual assault and harassment out of the chain of command.

“The voices of those people survivors have under no circumstances been louder or far more distinct,” Speier reported. “This is the military’s ‘#MeToo instant.”


This tale has been corrected to exhibit the armed forces title of the soldier accused of killing Vanessa Guillen. Aaron Robinson was a soldier, not an officer.


Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Affiliated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for The usa is a nonprofit countrywide service software that places journalists in nearby newsrooms to report on undercovered problems.

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