Fort Hood Soldier Found Dead After Telling Family About Sexual Harassment

A 20-year-old US Army private at Fort Hood who told her family she was sexually harassed was found dead this week, sparking renewed outrage and calls for accountability at the sprawling military base, which has a history of high levels of sexual abuse Guess has attack.

Soldier Ana Basaldua Ruiz, from Long Beach, California, had served as a combat engineer with the 1st Cavalry Division for the past 15 months after enlisting in the Army in 2021. Fort Hood officials said she died on March 13, but no information has been released as to the cause or manner of her death.

The Army Criminal Investigation Division confirmed Thursday that “no foul play is evident,” Fort Hood said in a statement.

“Army investigators will continue to conduct a thorough investigation and gather all evidence and facts to ensure they figure out exactly what happened,” the statement said. “Information related to possible harassment will be fully addressed and investigated.”

Fort Hood has come under intense scrutiny since the killing of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Army specialist who went missing from the base in Killeen, Texas, in April 2020 after she told friends she had been sexually harassed. Federal prosecutors said she was killed by another soldier, who later killed himself with a handgun in 2020, days before the charges were announced.

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Private Basaldua’s mother, Alejandra Ruiz Zarco, told Telemundo News that her daughter told her a few weeks ago that an army commander was “harassing her” and that she was the target of repeated sexual advances on the base.

Ms Ruiz, who lives in Mexico, last spoke to her daughter on March 8. Private Basaldua had told her mother she was “very sad, that she was going through very difficult things, that things weren’t as normal as she thought, that she couldn’t tell me much, but that there would be a moment when we would be together and she could tell me everything,” Ms. Ruiz told Telemundo News in Spanish.

Private Basaldua’s father, Baldo Basaldua, who lives in California, said his daughter recently told him that “her whole life was wrong, that she wanted to die,” reported Telemundo News. Her parents did not immediately respond to messages asking for further comment.

At a news conference Friday outside of Fort Hood, leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) called on the FBI to investigate Private Basaldua’s death and said it was important for law enforcement to investigate the circumstances.

The league was “deeply concerned by reports from her family that her daughter was the target of repeated sexual harassment,” Analuisa Tapia, the group’s Killeen district leader, said at the news conference.

“What we want is for our service members to be protected, our service members to be able to serve with integrity and to be operational,” Ms. Tapia added. “Any sexual harassment, anything that affects their mental and physical well-being, is a danger to our nation.”

After the killing of Specialist Guillen sparked protests, an investigation released in December 2020 found “major deficiencies” at Fort Hood and a command climate that the Secretary of the Army described as “permissive for sexual harassment and assault.” The army ordered 14 officials, including several senior leaders, to be relieved or suspended from command.

A 2021 study published by the RAND Arroyo Center, a federally funded research group, found that women at Fort Hood were at far greater risk of sexual assault than the average woman in the Army. Researchers found that the overall risk of sexual assault for Army women at Fort Hood was 8.4 percent in 2018, compared to a 5.8 percent risk for all women in the Army.

The researchers found that younger age was also associated with an increased risk of sexual assault, as was low education and rank. Fort Hood and Fort Bliss — another Texas facility with above-average attack rates — have large numbers of young, younger soldiers.

For some, Private Basaldua’s death suggests that not enough has changed at the grassroots level, even after President Biden signed legislation to overhaul the way the military responds to reports of sexual harassment. The measure was named in honor of Specialist Guillen.

Texas Democrat Rep. Joaquin Castro called on the Army to conduct a full investigation into Private Basaldua’s death, “including an assessment of why Ft. Hood still fails to protect young soldiers.”

“Reports of sexual harassment before Pvt. The death of Basalduaruiz is worrying,” he said on twitter. “Congress passed legislation of the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act to address issues of sexual assault and harassment in the military. We need to know if these safeguards are being fully implemented.”

Rep. Mayra Flores, a Republican from Texas, also expressed concern.

“Pvt. Ana Basalduaruiz deserves to live freely without harassment and abuse,” she said on twitter. “My heart goes out to her family and to all the women who have been ignored or forgotten by a biased system that has failed them.”


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