Since Vanessa Guillén’s murder, a number of women are sharing their own stories of sexual harassment or assault while they served in the military.
As soon as Army investigators confirmed the remains found near Fort Hood are those of Soldier Vanessa Guillén, women flooded social media with their own accounts of sexual harassment while serving in the military. The hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen has been trending in the past couple of weeks.
“In boot camp, one of my RDCs was constantly flirting with me & being inappropriate,” one woman shared. “Then, when I got to my command, I was constantly sexually harassed until it became a sexual assault. I never reported the name due to death threats.”
“I was raped in my sleep when the door was locked not even 2 months after arriving at my first command, and I was terrified to say anything because I didn’t think anyone would believe me,” another said.
According to a Pentagon report, sexual harassment cases such as the kind the plagued Guillén’s aren’t out of the ordinary. The report — released in April — showed that sexual assault and harassment reports in the military have increased in the past year. According to the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2019 report, 7,825 sexual assaults were reported — a 3% increase compared to 2018. It’s critical to note many incidents of sexual harassment and assault never get reported.
The Pentagon report also noted that restricted cases, “where survivors confidentially disclose an assault without starting an official investigation,” showed a 17% increase from last year, with 2,126 reports.
According to ABC 13, Domingo García, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), questioned the standard procedures of the military to handle sexual harassment complaints. On Friday, he urged women — especially Latinas — not to enlist the Army.
“We are asking all women, especially Latina women or their families: Do not enlist in the army until we have the assurance they will be protected and taken care of when they serve our country. And right now, I just don’t believe the military is capable of doing that because of what happened to Vanessa Guillén,” García said to the news station.
Pam Campos-Palma, an Air Force vet, shared the National Women Veterans & Service Women Sign-On Letter petition on Facebook, urging people to demand justice for Vanessa.
“We now have military/veteran women signed on from 21 global countries & territories including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Australia, Puerto Rico & a naval ship in Japan,” Campos-Palma wrote. “We stand with the Guillén family and will fight for them to have the Congressional investigations and hearings they require.”
Victims of sexual assault and harassment should seek help by calling the Department of Defense at 877-995-5247 or by visiting Safe Helpline. Safe Helpline services are confidential, anonymous, and available worldwide, 24/7.