After Vanessa Guillen’s Death, Soldiers Speak Out on Sexual Harassment in Military

For many women serving in the military, the tragic case of Vanessa Guillen has struck a chord — and triggered some of their worst fears as soldiers.

Guillen, 20, was last seen alive on April 22 when she was spotted in a parking lot at squadron headquarters in Fort Hood. Her car keys, barracks room key, identification card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she had been working earlier in the day. Two months later, her remains were recovered.

Before she vanished, Guillen told family and friends that a fellow soldier had sexually harassed her.  On the day her remains were found, Spc. Aaron Robinson, the 20-year-old man accused of killing and then dismembering her, died by suicide as police closed in on him. Guillen's family said Robinson sexually harassed her, but the Army said an investigation showed no evidence he had harassed her.

Sexual harassment is widespread in the military: A Department of Defense report says that in 2018, more than 24% of active duty women and 6% of active duty men had been sexually harassed.

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Now, other soldiers are speaking out about the issue — and sharing personal stories about their own experiences.

On Thursday night, Dateline is airing "Voices for Vanessa," a special report about sexual harassment in the military. An exclusive clip is above.

On the show, former Army Captain Melissa Bryant says sexual harassment was common in her military career, and that it wasn't just coming from her superiors. She recounts a troubling exchange with a subordinate soldier — and describes her own feelings of powerlessness over the harassment.

"I had a soldier make comments toward me," she recounts to journalist Andrea Canning. "I told him, 'Hey, you really need to cut that out.' And he said, 'Why? What are you gonna do about it?'" And in my mind I realized, 'I'm not gonna do anything about it.' That was the lowest point for me."

"It was a horrible realization," continues Bryant, who now works as an advocate for veterans. "This is someone who's reporting to me who's essentially taking away my authority and my agency as a woman and also as an officer — in saying, 'You're not gonna do anything about it.'"

Ryan McCarthy, the Secretary of the Army, addressed the alarming prevalence of sexual harassment, telling Canning, "The trends are going the wrong way, and the numbers are very high. And that's really tearing at us as an institution."

Dateline’s “Voices for Vanessa” Airs Thursday, November 19 at 10/9 CST on NBC.

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