Soldier Camerina Gonzalez fears for her life after accusing one of her superiors of sexual assault

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The brutal murder of SPC Vanessa Guillen at the hands of one of her fellow soldiers brought national attention that sexual assault in the military is a growing problem. 

The statistics of rape are not always accurate and often undercounted. The New York Times reported last spring that according to a survey released by the Defense Department, sexual assault of female officers has risen by about 50% in the past couple of years. 

Many victims do not come forward because they believe their complaints will not be taken seriously and fear of retaliation by their abuser and others.  

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There have been quite a few accounts of Latino servicemen and women reporting abuse at the bases they were stationed at. Almost everyone in the country heard about Vanessa Guillen, but Camerina Gonzalez’s story is not getting the attention it deserves. Camerina Gonzalez, an active Army 68A, says she was harassed and sexually assaulted by a 1st Sergeant at Ft. Detrick, Maryland.  

Camerina Gonzalez was born in Los Angeles, California, but she was raised in Iowa. Her family is from Sinaloa, Mexico. Ms. Gonzalez has been serving in the military for 8 years now. In June of 2019, she renewed her contract with the military for the next three years. According to Ms Gonzalez in March of this year, she became another victim of sexual assault in the army. The assault is devastating on its own, but to have higher ranking officers dispute your account, calling you a liar and mentally unstable is an added layer of insult to the sexual assault.  

Carmina Gonzalez was not getting help from the army so she contacted LULAC. According to the extensive documents of her account provided by LULAC, Ms. Gonzalez stated that at the end of March she was taken to Greater Baltimore Medical Center with a high fever. Medical tests and examination showed she had a pelvic infection, bladder infection, and anxiety. After telling the police officer in the ER that she was an active-duty soldier stationed at Ft Detrick, the police contacted the base and were given contact information for a 1st Sergeant, the same man who she says harassed and assaulted her.  She says she repeatedly stated that she was sexually assaulted, but the staff of Greater Baltimore Medical Center did not do a forensic rape kit, after the 1SG allegedly stated that she was giving false allegations and that she was promiscuous. Gonzalez also stated that after those statements from the 1SG the medical staff failed to treat her infection and instead shifted their focus on her mental health concerns. Gonzalez says the next day she was transported to Walter Reed and missed the opportunity to have a forensic rape kit performed, that she requested many times. Her infection was treated at Walter Reed.  

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In May Gonzalez filed and signed a Victim Reporting Preference Statement there she stated that she was a victim of sexual assault. At the end of May, she documents another incident involving the 1SG. She heard him making derogatory comments about her to another officer. In June Ms. Gonzalez continued documenting the incidents with the 1SG. This month she met with the 1SG to confront him with the allegations of sexual harassment. There were mediators/witnesses present at this meeting, During the meeting Gonzalez says the 1SG made statements that if this will turn into a legal battle he would defend himself by claiming Gonzalez was the one who plotted to arouse him. He denied the allegations against him and he said that he secured 15 statements saying he didn’t say anything in regard to his communication with Camerina Gonzalez.  In her documenting of this meeting Gonzalez mentioned that as 1SG, he outranks others and can coerce the statements from witnesses.  

Later the chain of command would find her allegation unfounded because, according to them, she provided zero proof.  

According to Gonzalez’s documentation of events, the 1SG kept on accusing her of provoking him. He went as far as to say that her exercising was a ploy to arouse him and he accused her of causing trouble for him with his wife.  

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Gonzalez felt scared. She made verbal complaints against the 1SG and his continued harassment and asked not to talk to him without a third party present. Gonzalez further documents that other officers in the base were under the impression that she was in an intimate relationship with him because he gave them this information. The 1SG also alleged that he has proof and warned Gonzalez that if she thinks of accusing him, he will provide the recording of him being at his home. Gonzalez says the 1SG informed her that he planned on retaliating for her SHARP complaint (Sexual Harassment Assault Prevention is a program in the army that deals with sexual assaults complaints).  

Ms. Gonzalez contacted National LULAC in June. Following is her account of events provided by LULAC. The communication was done through emails and texts.  

“I am in fear of my life. My 1st Sgt told me if I said anything, he would kill me. He is very powerful as an E-8. His name is ____*. I went to the hospital for a rape kit and he told them not to give me one and said ‘…she’s always making things up.’ I was denied the kit. Also involved is Capt. ____*. He is the Company Commander and runs everything. He is in on it too. I have been trying for weeks to get reassigned to another post and only now on June 5 was told I could go but they’re watching me and I’m afraid. I don’t know why it’s taking so long and I am not safe. I already contacted Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa since that’s where I grew up. Please help me. I already told my family what’s going on in case something happens to me. I have copies of what I filed, and they hate me for it.”  

Gonzalez contacted Iowa Senator Joni Ernst requesting to be reassigned to a different Army base in June. In July she also contacted the U.S. Representative David Loebsack and U.S. representative Abby Finkenauer. The staff working for those politicians acknowledged that they were in communication, but the sexual assault allegations were not confirmed. 

Loreto Gonzalez, her brother, also said that they had hoped that changing of bases would help his sister, but it did not appear so. At the moment Camerina Gonzalez is stationed in Ft Riley in Kansas. Her sister went to visit her once.

  

“I could meet with her for two hours,” Milagros Gonzalez, Camerina’s sister said. “They didn’t allow her to leave the base for more than two hours so I can spend some time with her.”  

She also stated that unlike what the army says, she does not believe her sister has mental health problems. Milagros Gonzalez believes that her sister looked scared and anguished.  

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The visit was in the last days of August. The family felt worried. They know that Camerina Gonzalez is being threatened. They wish to share her story and they want justice. They want to see her assailant pay for the crime he committed.  

Joe Henry el presidente de LULAC 307 en Des Moines junto a los hermanos de la soldado, Milagros y Loretto Gonzalez.
Foto Tar Macias / Hola Iowa

In September of 2020, Loreto Gonzalez contacted the LULAC 307 office of Joe Henry. During the meeting documented by Mr. Henry, they discussed what had occurred up to that point with Camerina Gonzalez. And on September 25, 2020, Joe Henry of LULAC Iowa and Loreto and Milagros Gonzalez held a joint press conference. Mr. Henry stated his concern for how long it is taking for her sexual assault complaint being taking seriously.  

“I am extremely concerned about how long this is taking, over six months, for her sexual assault complaint to be heard and to be heard in front of the judge,” Mr. Henry said during the press conference.  

‘My main concern is, she doesn’t feel justice will be made in her [case],” Loreto Gonzalez stated during the conference. “Having been raped by this man. I think that’s not right, so something has to change and someone has to step up to do it. And we are not going to stand for this injustice done to my sister. We want to do everything correctly and do everything in our hands for justice to be done.”  

At that point Ms. Gonzalez was held at the Irwin Army Community Hospital Behavioral Health Unit. Her family assures she did not have any mental problems before and if she feels anxiety now, it was probably caused by the sexual assault she endured. The family also said that they have been threatened as well.  

“Army Post Riley base plans to discharge me as retaliation for the media coverage of the mishandling of the sexual assault” Camerina Gonzalez shared with Hola Iowa in a in person interview on October 5. 

“I want my career back!” Camerina Gonzalez told Hola Iowa. “It is not fair that a woman enlist in the Army with the hope of improving her life and then this happens” she added. 

“Fort Riley are denying a safety transfer which should be an option under my circumstances for military members” she said. 

“Fort Riley command are saying that the reason they are discharging me is because it is the fastest and easiest way to get rid of me ‘the problem’, they called me the problem. They said that if I don’t agree to exit the military expeditiously I’m not gonna be safe and neither is my family”  Camerina Gonzalez said to Hola Iowa. “I wouldn’t call that a covert threat that’s an overt threat” she added. 

As of now U.S. Army military Attorney William Jae Shim sent a letter to Gonzalez where he stated that her sexual assault case will not proceed because the Justice presiding over this case issued an opinion stating that there was no probable cause. The same prosecutor also issued an opinion stating that there is probable cause that Gonzalez committed the offense of False Official Statement. Because of these decisions, U.S. Army military Attorney William Jae Shim informed Gonzalez that he cannot represent her anymore and advised her to hire a civilian attorney. LULAC is helping the family to find proper legal representation.  

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* Hola Iowa is not identifying the officer or officers accused by Ms Gonzalez because no one has not been charged with a crime in relation to Gonzalez’s allegations

Hola Iowa reached out to Fort Detrick to comment for this story on Monday October 5 and we received no response. 

Fort Riley posted a response on their Facebook page (one they have since deleted) stating:

“We are aware of allegations of sexual assault made by a Soldier assigned to Fort Riley. We will use every available resource to care for that Soldier and to investigate any and all reports of assault. Sexual assault is an egregious violation, and we always take every allegation seriously.  Out of concern for privacy, we are not making the Soldier’s identity public”

Update: Thanks to the efforts of LULAC Camerina Gonzalez was allowed to take 21 vacation days and she is back with her family for now. 

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