July 9, 2020

STATEMENT – U.S. Military Must Address Systemic Sexual Exploitation in Wake of Vanessa Guillén Death

Washington, DC (July 9, 2020) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is calling on the U.S. Department of Defense to reform its military culture to address systemic sexual abuse and exploitation in the wake of the death of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who reportedly was sexually harassed before disappearing in April, and the ensuing social media firestorm where female military members have been publicly proclaiming #IamVanessaGuillén to report their own harassment, sexual assault, and abuse while serving in the military.

“While the Department of Defense has acknowledged a culture of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse, it is clear that more needs to be done as evidenced by the mountain of female military members speaking up on social media. We urgently call on military leadership to address these injustices,” said Dawn Hawkins, senior vice president and executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

“In order to address this crisis and change the military culture to defend the dignity and humanity of every service member, the DoD must eradicate sexual exploitation by military personnel in all of its forms. We have previously requested that the DoD make strip clubs off-limits to all active duty military personnel worldwide, to include impact of pornography in anti-sexual assault and harassment training, and to do random sweeps of all military-owned computers to ensure pornography is not being used. This is unfortunately not a new problem that the DoD must face, but it must work swiftly to enact sweeping changes to address these crucial issues,” Hawkins said.

Dan O’Bryant, former Air Force JAG attorney, former professor at the Air Force Academy and board member for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, has said, as it relates to military members being allowed to go to strip clubs, “Military members cannot exploit and objectify women in one environment without it having an impact in every area of their lives, including their military service and relationships with their sisters in arms.”

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