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Lompoc rally raises awareness of military sexual assault trauma

Posted at 2:31 PM, Oct 03, 2020

Current and former service members and community members gathered in Lompoc Saturday morning to raise awareness of sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. military.

Our Sister's Keeper Movement, an activist group that emerged after the death of Vanessa Guillen, organized the Nationwide Rally for Military Sexual Assault Survivors.

Central Coast residents participated in the event by hosting the rally at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and C Street.

Attendees began with a moment of silence for service members who have died after speaking up about their sexual trauma, including Guillen, LaVena Lynn Johnson and Natasha Aposhian.

Rally organizer Emily Simmons says she is a survivor of military sexual trauma and hopes to help other survivors who may be struggling behind closed doors.

"I'm starting to find my footing after my trauma, and I think the easiest way for me to give back and make sure it doesn't happen is to spread the word," said Simmons.

Simmons says Our Sister's Keeper Movement is calling for lawmakers to pass the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020, fire the U.S. Army Fort Hood chain of command, make bystander complicity a judicial crime and other demands.

"We're requesting that the chain of command be taken out of the reporting process and have a completely civilian entity that would complete the investigation outside of the military," said Simmons.

According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, there were nearly 3,400 reports of sexual assault in the military in 2012.