'That's my justice': Former Fort Bragg soldier, sexual assault survivor advocates for military oversight

Michael Lozano Image
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Former Fort Bragg soldier, sexual assault survivor advocates for military oversight
A former Fort Bragg soldier and sexual assault survivor is serving her country in another way; as an advocate looking to change how the military oversees sexual assault allegations.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The national spotlight on the PFC Vanessa Guillen case at Fort Hood has brought about nationwide accusations of sexual misconduct from active military members and veterans.

In recent days, the hashtag, "IAmVanessaGuillen" has been trending, giving individuals a platform to share their alleged experiences.

Erin Scanlon served as a Captain at Fort Bragg for five years, retiring in December 2019, as a direct result of what she endured in previous years.

"A party where I met him that night, but ultimately, he was an enlisted soldier," Scanlon said.

Scanlon says she was sexually assaulted at a 2016 party by another soldier. In the coming weeks, the veteran reported the incident, and that's where she says the real challenge began.

"My behavior was in question, my character as a person, and as an Army officer were in question, and it shouldn't be like that," Scanlon said.

That questioning, along with some witnesses not getting the chance to speak, according to Scanlon, resulted in a jury acquitting the accused soldier in 2018. Scanlon going on to say, "I never had a chance".

According to the Department of Defense, there were 6,236 sexual assault reports submitted by service members in 2019, a three percent increase compared to 2018.

In the report, the Pentagon states they've re-evaluated their SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) program. Some recent changes in that last few years include: implementing an improved prevention lesson plan, maintaining a well-trained staff, willing and able to provide resources and help, and hired additional, highly trained sexual assault investigators.

Scanlon tells ABC 11 she believes the system to report and seek justice needs to be taken out of the Military's hands.

"And that's fine. They shouldn't have to. It shouldn't be on them. It's a dynamic... that it's impossible to get a fair investigation when you're investigating yourself, because it is a family," Scanlon added.

This is why Scanlon has become an advocate, joining forces with Attorney Natalie Khawam, who also represents the Guillen family, to see legislative change that would allow a separate agency or entity to oversee sexual misconduct reports and investigations.

"Our service members are the ones who volunteered to protect our freedoms, and we have to protect them back," Scanlon said.

Even though the Court of Law did not side with Scanlon, she says she hopes other soldiers out there won't suffer the same fate.

Recently, Scanlon has become a resource for the Rape Crisis of Cumberland County, helping other active military members or veterans enduring the same problems.

In addition, Scanlon's heart has been heavy with the unfolding story out of Fort Hood. She, with the help of the VFW Post 670, in Fayetteville, held a vigil on Monday evening to lift up Guillen's family during this difficult time.

"I feel like, once I'm able to change the system for our future service members, that's my justice," Scanlon said.