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Laura Garcia and Gloria Sandoval  |  Issue: October 2020
Vanessa Guillén
Vanessa Guillén

On September 7, 2020.Vanessa Guillén’s mother, Gloria Guillén marched in Austin, Texas in support of the family’s forthcoming #IamVanessaGuillén bill.  The Guillen’s family attorney, Natalie Khawam is expected to introduce the bill on September 16 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

The #IamVanessaGuillén bill would allow active-duty service members to file claims of sexual harassment or assault to a third-party agency instead of through their military chain of command. Hundreds of survivors are coming forward to share their stories of sexual trauma in the military.

The public has shown its concern and love for Vanessa by painting murals and demanding justice.  A national campaign #IAmVanessaGuillén is a continuation of the #MeToo movement on violence towards women.

Spc. Vanessa Guillén, a 20 year-old in the U.S. Army went missing on April 22.  She was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.  Prior to her disappearance and death, Guillén had told her family she was being sexually harassed by another soldier at Fort Hood.  After not hearing from Vanessa, the family demanded an investigation and discovered other cases from the same base.

Guillén’s remains were found on July 1 about 20 miles away near a river. A fellow soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson (20 years old), was suspected of bludgeoning her to death at the base and then cowardly burying Vanessa’s dismembered remains with the assistance of another young woman.  He shot and took his own life as police tried to confront him. The young woman is cooperating with police and will be charged.

California Rep. Jackie Speir (D-CA) will lead a congressional delegation to Fort Hood this month to look into a strange and mysterious string of deaths and disappearances connected to the sprawling Army base near Killeen, Texas, that includes Guillén’s murder.

Outside the state capitol building, Lupe Guillén, Vanessa Guillén’s 16-year-old sister, “We still don’t know the truth. We haven’t gotten answers, and yet the Army is trying to cover this up. Cover up after cover up,” she told the crowd. “My sister, a woman and a human being, is not a sexual object. Is that difficult to understand? Put yourself in Vanessa’s position. She didn’t report it. She stayed quiet. Why? Because the Army does not care. She was afraid of retaliation.”

She hopes that Representative Speier’s delegation will hold Vanessa’s entire chain of command accountable and will “find out and show the world that [the base’s] lack of safety and respect” is killing its soldiers, and that its leadership is “toxic.”

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