The Fight for Justice for Vanessa Guillen Is Just Starting — and Her Family Is on the Front Lines


Image via AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

By Araceli Cruz

July 30, 2020

Texas Rep. Sylvia García, along with supporters, gathered for a rally in Washington, D.C. to support the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill.

The family of Vanessa Guillén, the soldier who was found dead months after disappearing from Fort Hood, won’t rest until justice has been done —and similar cases can’t happen again.

This Thursday, they gathered in Washington D.C. with supporters seeking justice. They rallied during a press conference in the morning, and then marched from Capitol Hill to the White House, where the parents of Guillén would later meet with president Trump.

The events were also a prelude to the introduction of the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill in Congress by Democratic California representative Jackie Speier. The bill would allow military service members to file harassment and assault claims to a third-party agency instead of their chain of command, expecting to put an end to sexual violence in the military.

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“We’re going to make sure this is the Me Too of the military,” Attorney Natalie Khawam, who is representing the Guillén family, said during the morning rally

Supporters showed their dedication to the murdered soldier by holding signs, others with the Mexican bandana on their wrist. A man from California had the face of the Vanessa tattooed on his calf. They chanted, “Justice for Vanessa!” in Spanish while marching from Capitol Hill to the White House.

On Wednesday, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), along with Rep. Speier and Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), held a hearing with the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee to discuss the #IamVanessaGuillen bill. Rep. Speier talked about how before her disappearance Vanessa had told her family about the harassment she experienced while stationed at the Fort Hood base in Texas.

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Rep. Speier, head of the subcommittee, shared stories from former and current military service members who openly told their accounts of harassment using the #IAmVanessaGuillen hashtag. 

The California congresswoman said these stories prove there’s a “pernicious military culture.”

“The rates of sexual harassment have continuously increased, García said. “The problem is only getting worse.”

In July, just a couple of days after Vanessa’s remains were found near Fort Hood, Rep. Garcia called for an investigation into her murder and the culture at the base, where seven service members have died under suspicious circumstances this year.

“The United States military has a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the young women and men that take an oath to defend our country,” Rep. Garcia said in a statement. “In SPC Guillen’s case, the U.S. Army failed both Vanessa and her family. There are still many questions left unanswered surrounding her disappearance and about how Fort Hood conducted its investigations. Congress must act to guarantee this never happens again to another soldier. This is why my colleagues and I strongly support Rep. Speier and Sen. Gillibrand’s request for the DoD Inspector General to conduct a full, independent investigation into Fort Hood’s handling of SPC Vanessa Guillen’s case.”




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