WOMEN
09/18/2014 11:58 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2014

Michelle Monaghan Talks 'Fort Bliss' And Sexual Assault In The Military

In "Fort Bliss," Michelle Monaghan plays U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Maggie Swann, a woman who returns from a 15-month deployment and confronts the struggles many service members -- specifically women -- face when returning home from combat. To study for the role, Monaghan visited with female soldiers who'd been to war and back.

In an interview with HuffPost Live on Sept. 18, Monaghan said the prevalence of sexual assault in the military was a troublingly common theme in these conversations.

"First and foremost, something the movie tackles is sexual assault," Monaghan told host Ricky Camilleri. "And most of the women that I spoke to had incurred a level of that. That was really significant for us... We couldn't actually fully tell the full female experience in the military without addressing that in some stage. This is something that happens. That's a particular trauma that women come back with."

In May, a Pentagon survey revealed that reports of sexual assault in the military were up 50 percent from the year before. While it's likely that increased reporting signals greater faith among victims in the military to prosecute these crimes, the Pentagon survey states that of the 5,061 cases reported in 2013, only 484 went to trial, resulting in just 376 convictions.

In "Fort Bliss," Monaghan's character is sexually assaulted by a fellow service member, whom she considered a friend and who later passes away. Stories like these represent the complexity of prosecuting sexual assault in the military and the many dynamics at play, both institutional and emotional. Monaghan explained how she saw this reflected in some of the female soldiers she spoke to.

"One of these things I took from a lot of these women, in having had these experiences they had, whether they had been sexually assaulted or they had been in combat and witnessed some pretty severe trauma, was the way in which they related to it. The way in which they conveyed it," she said. "They're very matter-of-fact in the way that they express things. These women are very grounded. They're not necessarily asking when they're speaking to you for sympathy on compassion, they're asking for a simple acknowledgement and to be heard."

"Fort Bliss" is released Friday, September 19.

Catch the rest of the clip above, and watch Monaghan's full HuffPost Live conversation here.

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