(NewsNation) — The mistreatment of women, including sexual assault and harassment, are serious problems in the U.S. armed forces.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, thousands of service members each year are estimated to have experienced some form of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment while actively serving their country.
The U.S. Department of Defense received a total 7,816 reports of sexual assault in the 2020 fiscal year. Of those, 6,290 involved allegations from service members reporting incidents that occurred during military service, according to the department.
Women in the military are particularly vulnerable to abuse due to geographical isolation from family and friends, according to a fact sheet from Futures Without Violence.
A series of recent incidents have called attention to the violence women experience while serving in the U.S. armed forces.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can receive confidential help by calling the 24/7 toll-free support line at 800-656-4673. You can also visit here.
In the case of Denisha Montgomery, her family is demanding answers after they say she was murdered while serving her country overseas.
Montgomery, 27, was assigned to the 139th Military Police Company stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, when, according to her family, she no longer felt safe with her fellow soldiers.
In a 12-minute video call, she documented abuse sustained while with a group of military police from her unit.
Days later, Montgomery was found dead in her barracks.
Fort Hood Army specialist Vanessa Guillen, 20, was found dead in June of 2020. She was sexually harassed and her body was brutally mutilated on base at the hands of a fellow soldier.
Guillen’s case garnered national attention and activists expressed outrage at the lack of answers from the military when she first disappeared.
Many service members say the disciplinary system is broken and the military failed to protect them.
Advocates have been calling for years for commanders to be taken out of the decision-making process when it comes to prosecuting the thousands of cases of sexual assault and related crimes among service members every year.
Guillen’s case put intense pressure on the military to change its ways. But it wasn’t until January of 2022, that President Joe Biden signed an executive order making sexual harassment an offense in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Under the executive order, military personnel who experience sexual assault or harassment can report the incident to a third party instead of their command.
After an investigation, the Army disciplined more than a dozen officials in Guillen’s case and congressional hearings were held focusing on problems with criminal investigations in the military at large.
The incidents listed are among countless others, as cases of assault in the military often go unreported for fear of retaliation and further abuse.