Fort Hood soldier who reported sexual assault is found dead
The US Army is investigating the death of a 21-year-old combat engineer at the base in Fort Hood, Texas.
Private Ana Basalduaruiz was found dead on Monday after having served in her division for 15 months. She told her mother last month that she had been sexually assaulted by a someone with higher rank and her family had told her they could pick her up from the base, the family told ABC News.
Noticias Telemundo reported that in addition to being harassed by a higher-ranking soldier, she had told her mother, Alejandra Ruiz Zarco, that she had also been harassed by others while serving.
Her mother, who lives in Michoacán in Mexico, said her daughter told her that “everyone wants me to sleep with them” but that they were repulsive individuals.
The mother told Telemundo that her daughter had told her “that she wanted to see me, that she wanted to hug me, and she wanted me to hug her a lot, like when she was little”.
The death is being investigated by the Army Criminal Investigation Division as well as the chain of command, Fort Hood told the outlet.
Fort Hood said in a short press release on Wednesday that no foul play “is evident”.
The news of the death of Pvt Basalduaruiz comes after the murder of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén at Fort Hood following allegations that she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier, who died by suicide as he was being chased by police. Spc Guillén was 20 years old when she was killed on 22 April 2020.
A report released almost a year after her death confirmed that she had been sexually harassed.
An autopsy for Pvt Basalduaruiz will take place on Thursday, her aunt, Itzi Ortega, told ABC.
The commander of the 91st Engineer Battalion Lt Col Patrick Sullivan said in a statement that “we are deeply saddened by the loss of Pvt. Ana Basalduaruiz, and we extend our sympathies to her father, mother, and her sister”.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. She was an exceptional teammate that will truly be missed,” he added.
The Department of Defense said in its military sexual assault and harassment report for the 2021 fiscal year that 29 per cent of women in the military and seven per cent of men had experienced sexual harassment. The last report was published in 2018, when 24 per cent of women reported being the target of sexual harassment.
The aunt told ABC that Pvt Basalduaruiz joined the military in 2020 but that her training had been delayed by the pandemic until August of last year.
The sister of Spc Guillén, Mayra Guillén, shared her reaction to the news of the death of Pvt Basalduaruiz on Twitter.
“I’m aware of the death of Ana Basaldua in Ft Hood, TX. May she Rest In Peace. She was only 21 years old ... I will be speaking to the family soon, I find it very sensitive to speak on something I’m not fully aware off yet and this is also very triggering for me ... I need to gather my thoughts and then I’ll be able to share them,” she said.
The parents of Pvt Basalduaruiz compared her death to that of Spc Guillén, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
The commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, Col Christopher Dempsey, said in a statement that “a loss of any one of our soldiers is a tragedy and it is no different in the death of Private Ana Basalduaruiz. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Ana”.
“We have remained in constant contact with both parents of Private Basalduaruiz, and will continue to keep them updated,” he added, according to the Express-News.
Sexual assault has been a major problem in the military for decades.
Five Army outposts had 500 or more victims of sexual assault and rape in 2014, according to a report issued by the Rand Corp think tank. The estimated number at Fort Hood was 885, the report said.
The Pentagon has said that 6,236 reports of sexual assault and harassment were filed in 2019 – an increase of three per cent compared to the year before.
Figures from the Defense Department show that 13,382 servicewomen – 6.2 per cent of the force – were subjected to sexual assault in 2018, an increase from 9,834 in 2014.
Only a few hundred convictions are handed down every year.
Former California Democratic Representative Jackie Speier said in 2021 that “you cannot have 20,000 sexual assault cases a year, have 7,000 people report, and then end up having a handful – 250 – that get convicted”.
“You can’t tell me that those 7,000 that report, that 99 per cent of them are lying,” she added.
The Independent has reached out to the Army for comment.