A TikToker is exposing how women in the U.S. military are afraid to report sexual assault due to a system that perpetuates abuse and often fails to hold assaulters to accountability.
On Sunday, Nora, who goes by the TikTok username @infidel_nora, posted a video in response to a comment by @user39398483039451 that said “It’s ironic how every single female in the military have all experienced SA [sexual assault]. When it’s never witnessed, or heard about.”
Nora’s TikTok showed a montage of pictures of Vanessa Guillén, an Army specialist who was killed in April 2020. “Because we don’t want to end up like her…” the overlay text says.
Guillén, a 20-year-old from Texas, joined the Army in 2018 and disappeared on April 22, 2020, according to the New York Times. Once her remains were found, it was brought to light that she was being harassed but was afraid to file a credible report. She was murdered and dismembered by another soldier, who would later fatally shoot himself and his girlfriend.
Guillén’s family called for an investigation into Fort Hood, where Guillén was based. The investigation found “major flaws” and that those in high command fostered an environment that was tolerant of sexual assault and harassment. Several high-ranking leaders at Fort Hood were fired or suspended.
In the wake of Guillén’s death, other women in the military and advocates spoke up to say how common sexual assault is and how often it is swept under the rug. In a male-dominated culture of discipline and hierarchy, a woman who files a complaint has faced harmful repercussions.
In the comments on Nora’s TikTok, users shared how they or someone they knew have experienced assault while serving in the military and are still trying to get justice.
“Holy shit his comment is exactly why no one reports,” user @lilyyannax wrote. “Also it happens right in front of their eyes and they look the other way.”
“The military kept pushing my court date back for two years until I finally decided to drop it,” TikToker @xjessicatorres said. “The military will always be against you. Never with you.”
In another TikTok, Nora said that she has been sexually assaulted twice while serving in the military. “Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s been four years,” she wrote in the comments. “Feel sorry for the new soldiers inheriting a broken system.”
Every year, about 20,000 service members are sexually assaulted, and only 7,816 report those cases, according to PBS. Of those, the perpetrators were charged 4.4% of the time, and 64% of those who reported their assault faced some retaliation like being discharged.
Sexual trauma affects the well-being of those who experience it. A 2019 study found that 29% of the servicewomen and veterans who experienced sexual assault contemplated suicide.
Sexual assault has infiltrated the military for decades, but advocates and politicians are pushing for change from the inside out. In August, President Joe Biden announced that he wanted to remove the military policy that gives commanders the power to investigate and prosecute in sexual assault cases.
“Sexual assault is an abuse of power and an affront to our shared humanity,” Biden said.
Today’s Top Stories
*First Published: Nov 22, 2021, 11:50 pm CST
Kathleen is a Honolulu-based freelance writer, editor and communications strategist who has been published by the New York Times, Vice, Huffington Post, Hana Hou!, and more. She’s worked in the communication departments at the Honolulu Museum of Art, ACLU of Hawaii and Hawaii Community Foundation. When she’s not writing, she can be found in the ocean, walking her rescue poi dog or oil painting.