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The Military Failed Vanessa Guillen and Others. It Must Do Better.

A protest for justice for Vanessa Guillen on the state Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., on July 25. (Gailya Paliga)

This put up was initially printed by the North Carolina Nationwide Group for Ladies. It has been republished with permission.

Vanessa Guillen was a 20-year-old Military non-public top quality when she went lacking on April 22 from Fort Hood Military Base in Killeen, Texas. She vanished mid-shift, leaving her automotive keys, barracks room key, Military identification card and pockets behind at her workspace. The investigation into her disappearance dragged on slowly at greatest whereas her household pushed for assist and solutions. Ultimately, investigators discovered she was murdered by a soldier on base.

Earlier than the homicide, Guillen had informed her household she had been sexually harrassed by her superiors, however was afraid to report it. Her case and issues with how the navy handles sexual assault and sexual harassment sparked protests throughout Texas, on-line and across the nation.

A candlelight vigil was held for Guillen and Breonna Taylor in Durham, N.C., on July 5, and a minimum of two have been held in Fayetteville. Anger and frustration with these failures are making a navy #MeToo motion. These persevering with failures within the navy have to be addressed.

The Guillen Household Bought Concerned

Guillen’s household held vigils and protests of their very own at Fort Hood in Might, together with one on Might 22.

“Her household mentioned the protest was a technique to convey consciousness to her disappearance and for them to name for justice and solutions,” in line with KCENTV.

In a later interview, Vanessa’s sister, Mayra Guillen, reported her household had carried out a minimum of 10 searches of their very own by Might 30—together with one with over 60 individuals on Might 30 in a park reserve.

Since Guillen’s physique was discovered, protests have erupted throughout Texas, and have unfold throughout the nation.


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From the time of Guillen’s disappearance, the household had issues getting info and motion from the navy.

“Investigators moved too slowly to piece collectively proof and safe telephone information that led to the suspects greater than two months after Guillen disappeared,” Guillen household lawyer Natalie Khawam informed The Washington Submit.

The Homicide Case

Investigators now have the homicide case fairly nicely put collectively.  They imagine Military Specialist Aaron Robinson murdered Guillen and satisfied his girlfriend, Cecily Ann Aguilar, to assist him eliminate Guillen’s physique.

The investigators used Robinson’s and Aguilar’s telephone information to search out her physique, which had been dismembered and partially burned. Robinson killed himself on July 1 when confronted by authorities.

On the time of her disappearance, Guillen had been anticipated to be promoted to a specialist throughout the month. In accordance with The New York Occasions, after Guillens’ physique was discovered, Fort Hood officers promoted her from non-public to specialist, efficient July 1. (This explains why some articles determine her with the rank of  non-public top quality, whereas others use the rank of specialist.)

Army Mishandling of Intercourse Crimes

Vanessa Guillen informed her household that she had been sexually harassed by superiors. She didn’t report it, fearing retribution. Reporting sexual harassment and sexual assaults within the navy goes up the chain of command—significantly ineffective if the perpetrator is a superior.

This example additionally causes different conflicts of curiosity—undesirable statistics for superiors, who could lose a number of subordinates if they’re concerned within the intercourse crimes.

On-line posts of previous assaults have solely grown since June. At first, the hashtag #NoMas (No Extra) and #IAmVanessaGuillen, had been used principally by present and previous feminine service members who skilled sexual assault and harassment

#IAmVanessaGuillen went viral earlier than June 22, earlier than she was discovered. Since Guillen’s slaying was confirmed, servicewomen and servicemen have continued to share their tales on-line, making this like a navy #MeToo motion.

“For some ladies in uniform, the case is emblematic of a navy tradition that they are saying has downplayed or ignored allegations of sexual harassment and assault and created an environment that pressures women and men to maintain accusations quiet,” wrote The Washington Submit.

In accordance with The New York Occasions, “Ms. Khawam additionally referred to as for laws in Specialist Guillen’s title that may set up higher protocols concerning sexual harassment and assault, like permitting members of the navy to make stories by way of a 3rd celebration slightly than having to take action by way of the chain of command.” 

The Army Has a Obligation to Do Higher

The social media uproar, pushed by activists and celebrities (similar to actor Salma Hayek) in addition to different service members, is making a distinction. Lawmakers are demanding the Pentagon’s inspector normal launch an impartial investigation into Guillen’s disappearance and dying. Protests and petitions demand investigation and different critical penalties. 

The navy must take lacking particular person instances extra critically and likewise talk higher with households. In Guillen’s case, the navy didn’t remedy her homicide till service members blew the story up and shared their tales with the hashtag on social media.

Whereas looking for Guillen, the physique of one other Fort Hood soldier was discovered: Non-public Gregory Wedel Morales—a person who had been lacking for a yr and branded a deserter. Would which have been Guillen’s destiny additionally if her household hadn’t pushed so laborious—to be branded as a deserter, regardless that she was taken out mid-duty one afternoon and left keys and extra behind? Perhaps so.

The protocols to report sexual harassment and assault don’t make sense and don’t work. The navy have to be compelled to handle these main deficiencies uncovered by the ugly homicide of Specialist Vanessa Guillen—together with gradual or negligent investigation of lacking individuals, lack of communication with households and dealing with of intercourse crimes. In any other case, we’re setting our troopers as much as fail.


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