Women-Miltary-Sexual-Harassment-Complaints In 2017, women represented 16% of the overall active duty force, up from 9% in 1980. Latinas being the fastest growing minorities enrolled, according to Pew Research Center.
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Women in the military coming forward about sexual harassment and sexual assault face some particular challenges: Each military branch has its own procedure and process. 

As soon as Army investigators confirmed the remains found near Fort Hood are those of Soldier Vanessa Guillén, women flooded social media with their own accounts of sexual harassment while serving in the military. The hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen has been trending in the past couple of weeks.

Related: #IAmVanessaGuillen: Why Women Are Sharing Their Stories of Assault in the Military

Guillén’s family said at a press conference held in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday that she was too scared to report her sexual harassment to the chain of command. Instead, the soldier disclosed the harassment to her family. 

She felt if she spoke, something would happen,” Mayra, Guillén’s sister confirmed, according to a Washington Post report. “I now realize everything leads back to them harassing her at work.”

Related: Identity of Suspects in Missing Soldier Vanessa Guillén’s Case Has Been Revealed

How to File a Complaint in the Military

Women in the military coming forward about sexual harassment and sexual assault face some particular challenges: Each military branch has its own procedure and process. 

The army has a program called “SHARP,” which stands for Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention. Its mission is to “Enhance Army readiness through the prevention of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and associated retaliatory behaviors while providing comprehensive response capabilities.”

The SHARP website notes that victims of sexual harassment and assault can either file a formal or informal complaint. The complaint process differs depending on the severity of the crime. 

Related: Suspect Dead in Missing Soldier Vanessa Guillén’s Case After Remains Found

Informal Complaint of Sexual Harassment Informal complaints of sexual harassment involve less severe or egregious incidents that can be resolved by the individual, with the help of another, and/or by the direct resolution,” the website states. 

A formal complaint requires victims first to fill out a DA Form 7279 (Equal Opportunity Complaint Form). The victim must also “swear to the accuracy of their allegations.” The victim must disclose detailed information such as specific timelines and further documentation.

The EO complaint form is standard for all military divisions and units, and the process that follows is also a lengthy one that could last months or more. 

For cases of sexual assault, the military requires victims to contact their Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Victim Advocate (VA), or healthcare provider.

The most critical thing a victim should do is seek medical attention even if they don’t have physical injuries.

Domingo García, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said via a released statement that his organization will be meeting with the Secretary of the Army in Washington, D.C. to demand a separate, independent agency outside of the military protocol be established “to investigate reports of rapes, assaults and sexual harassment some of our soldiers are being subjected to and all too often, their claims are ignored.”

He added, “We also know, as we hear from soldiers impacted, that there is a credible fear of reporting due to retaliation and that the majority of cases are not reported.”

Victims of sexual assault and harassment can also seek help by calling the Department of Defense at 877-995-5247 or by visiting Safe Helpline. Safe Helpline services are confidential, anonymous, and available worldwide, 24/7.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated and divided into two articles to separate the stories of women in the military who experienced assault from this guide on how to report due to the sensitive nature of the stories.