Missing Soldier from Fort Hood Reported Sex Abuse Before Death

The death of a missing soldier from Fort Hood is a sad story. The only good thing that could come from such a sad story is for people to learn more about the scourge of sexual abuse, the need to confront and demand better from our institutions, and what role they can play in supporting survivors and preventing abuse.

Sgt. Elder Fernandes’ family is demanding a Congressional investigation of Fort Hood in the wake of several disappearances of soldiers, including at least two that involved foul play, Spc. Vanessa Guillen and Pfc. Gregory Morales. Spc. Guillen’s family has raised allegations that before she was killed she had been sexually harassed.

We support the calls for a Congressional investigation into what has gone wrong at Fort Hood. We know that institutions cannot police themselves and that the best way to truly understand what happened is for outside investigators to get involved. We believe this is the case across the board and that our elected officials should look into any and all institutions where children and targeted adults are hurt.

While the family of Sgt. Fernandes does not believe that he would have left on his own, we know the struggles and challenges that clergy abuse survivors’ experience.  It is possible that this sad story may speak to the damage sexual abuse can do to an individual. A key element present in both the abuse cases that we usually deal with and Sgt. Fernandes’ situation is the way that hierarchical institutions and the abuse of power can go hand in hand. Sexual abuse is, at its core, a power issue, and when power is consolidated into a delineated hierarchy, it can both enable abusers and create a dramatic uphill battle for victims to both report and handle the aftermath of their abuse.

Studies have repeatedly shown that survivors of sexual abuse struggle with issues including substance abuse, depression, suicide, and many others. Our hearts ache for the Fernandes’ family and hope that they will get both the answers and the support they need during this difficult time.

What happened to Sgt. Fernandes should not happen to anyone else. The public needs to join with advocacy organizations and echo our call for oversight and investigation. We encourage people who are tired of reading stories about sexual violence to contact their Congressional Representatives and Senators and ask them what their plan is to combat institutional sexual abuse. The more that we let our elected officials know that we care about these issues, the sooner that they will take up the charge and force change upon institutions both religious and civic.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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