A Minnesota soldier killed herself earlier this year after she was sexually assaulted and harassed while on a U.S. Army base in South Korea, and Army investigators concluded that commanding officers failed to adequately respond to her assault, harassment, and suicidal ideations. Local news station KSTP reports 21-year-old Pvt. Nicole Burnham hanged herself early this year at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Burnham requested to be transferred off South Korea’s Camp Casey after she was sexually assaulted late last year—and harassed and cyberbullied by her attacker, other officers, and their wives, according to an Army investigative report. While Burnham’s transfer was approved, she was not transferred until 82 days later. In those 82 days, she had to live in the same barracks as her attacker and others who called her a “slut, deserving of rape” on social media, according to the report. Many officers saw the abusive behavior and reportedly turned a “blind eye.” When Burnham hinted to other officers that she was suicidal, investigators reportedly found that a “commander violated Army policy by not reporting those comments up the chain of command.” Investigators also found that officers on Camp Casey did not notify Fort Carson that Burnham was a victim of sexual assault during her transfer. The assaulter was court-martialed but received a “less than honorable discharge” in a plea deal with Burnham’s family. “How does this happen?” Burnham’s mother asked the local news station. “How does somebody fall through every single crack?”
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).