Family want Congressional investigation into disappearance of 20-year-old Vanessa Guillén from Army base in Texas
‘We are the faces of military sexual trauma and assault’: Women in the Army share their own stories of sexual harassment and assault saying #IAmVanessaGuillen after remains are found during the search for the missing soldier
No longer willing to remain the silent oppressed, women in the military are sharing how they were sexually assaulted and harassed while serving, using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen
Victims say the military has done nothing in the way of justice, instead opening them up for more harassment and intimidation, while the perpetrators often go unscathed
Private first class Guillén disappeared from the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas on April 22
She vanished after telling family she was being sexually harassed and felt unsafe
On Monday a search team looking for Guillen found human remains near base believed to belong to the missing soldier
They were found near where human remains of Private Gregory Scott Morales, another missing soldier from the base who vanished last August, were found on June 19
The family of Vanessa Guillén Tuesday stated that “Due to the lack of answers, safety, respect, and responsibility in Fort Hood, we are demanding a Congressional Investigation to be done,” her family wrote.
Private First-Class Guillén, 20, has been missing for two months and was last seen at the Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen, Texas on April 22.
She disappeared shortly after she told her family she was being sexually harassed by an unnamed sergeant and felt unsafe.
On Monday, a group of 30 volunteers searching for Guillen near the base discovered human remains and items believed to be linked to her.
Following her disappearance and public outcry, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander ordered an investigation into Guillén’s allegations that she was sexually harassed at the base.
#IAmVanessaGuillen attorney Natalie Khawam calling for a congressional inquiry into the disappearance of the young private
In an announcement made Tuesday on Facebook by the family’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, a press conference will hold in Washington D.C. on Thursday, demanding a Congressional investigation to be done on her disappearance.
Citing the “lack of answers, safety, respect, and responsibility in Fort Hood,” the family in the post says “How can someone be sexually harassed on base, go missing on base and the family has not obtain answers in the last two months?”
Khawam said she’s worried about how this case might turn out, as she’s discovered at least two alleged incidents of sexual harassment targeted at the missing soldier.
One instance of a superior walking in on Guillén showering and another verbally assaulting Guillén with vulgar remarks in Spanish.
Vanessa Guillén told loved ones she didn’t want to report the sexual harassment out of fear of retaliation.
“The facts aren’t good. I don’t like them,” said Khawam.
“There were a few incidents where she had told her colleagues, her friends, her family about being sexually harassed but she was afraid to report it. How does someone disappear on a base that has more protection and safeguards than anyone else on the planet?”
“I’m praying for her to be found alive,” said Vanessa Guillen’s younger sister Lupe said on June 24. Five days later volunteers found the remains
It was revealed that the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command launched an investigation into allegations that Guillén was sexually harassed.
“I opened an investigation concerning the information provided by the Guillén Family that Pfc. Vanessa Guillén was harassed prior to her disappearance,” said Commander of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment Col. Ralph Overland.
“I take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and we are conducting a thorough investigation.”
Khawam who is expected to propose legislation to protect U.S. military members from sexual harassment and assault, has invited victims to come forward with their stories. There has been no shortage of takers as women who served in the Armed Forces are sharing their harrowing stories of how they were sexually assaulted and harassed while on duty, using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.
During the desperate search for Guillén, soldiers and veterans are sharing their own accounts, calling out sexual harassment in the Army.
A similar flurry of posts demanding change in the Army emerged on Facebook.
‘Vanessa’s case feels so personal because it could have been me,’ Army veteran Maira Carrier, shared on Facebook, posting her photo alongside Guillén’s.
‘I came in the Army when I was 17 years old. I was a victim of sexual assault and harassment as a child and I thought that the Army was my ticket out of that life, but instead I came into an even more painful world,’ she explained.
She said that when she was 17 and a Private First Class in the Army she was assaulted right before starting her basic training.
‘Right before getting on the bus for basic training the airport reception NCO kept me back in the airport as the others went to the training center. He took me to a corner to avoid being seen, then proceeded to hit on me and grab the inside of my leg. I said I was 17 on multiple occasions,’ she revealed.
‘Vanessa’s case feels so personal because it could have been me,’ Army veteran Maira Carrier, shared on Facebook, posting her photo alongside Guillen’s
She said that when she was 17 and a Private First Class in the Army she was assaulted right before starting her basic training
Jasmine Maylott who had also been stationed at Fort Hood exposed the sexual harassment she suffered at the base in June 2019
‘He gave me his personal cell phone number, the reception number to contact him, his emails (work and personal), and explained to me that he could help me have fun when I get to advanced individual training.
I turned all his information to my DS, who said they were going to take care of it.
Later in my career I looked up this individual and he had been promoted twice. It was as if my complaint made no impact in his career,’ she added.
Let down by those supposed to be protecting her: Nikki Williams, who had been stationed at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, when she suffered sexual assault at the hands of leaders at the base. Williams was ostracized when she reported the abuse
Another soldier named Nikki Williams, who had been stationed at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, revealed she suffered sexual assault at the hands of leaders at the base and was ostracized when she reported it.
‘We are the faces of military sexual trauma and assault. It needs to be acknowledged. You will be found and you WILL have justice served. We have your back and we will never leave you behind’ – Emily Marie
Emily Marie shared her photo alongside Guillen’s saying: ‘We are the faces of military sexual trauma and assault. It needs to be acknowledged. You will be found and you WILL have justice served. We have your back and we will never leave you behind’
Another soldier named Nikki Williams who had been stationed at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana revealed she suffered sexual assault at the hands of leaders at the base.
‘As long as I said nothing, stayed in my place and allowed those who out ranked me to take full advantage of their rank and position, I was fine. The moment I spoke out and began to seek help from legal, I was bombarded and inundated with letters of counseling, letters of reprimand, and was painted out to be the troubled young airman that simply refused to conform to the “Air Force way,”‘ the soldier said.
‘I managed to make it through my enlistment, but it wasn’t without mental breakdowns, counseling sessions, medications, losing my hair, plenty of tears, and leaning on the friends that kept me close to what one could consider sane.
‘This culture needs to change among our military. #JusticeForVanessa #IAmVanessaGuillen,’ she added.
Another soldier named Emily Marie shared her photo alongside Guillén’s, saying the military failed to seek justice for victims who reported sexual assault and assailants weren’t punished.
‘The military sucks for women. Chances are you WILL be harassed, you WILL be assaulted, and most likely your command won’t really care. They’ll sweep it under the rug, they’ll make you face your assailant every day as if nothing was wrong,’ Marie said.
‘Your tires might be slashed because they know where you live and work, you might see them come into your work center JUST BECAUSE they know it triggers you and they get a kick out of it,’ she added.
‘We are the faces of military sexual trauma and assault. It needs to be acknowledged. You will be found and you WILL have justice served. We have your back and we will never leave you behind,’ she said.
The push to find the missing young soldier has been picked by media. Vanessa Guillen [photo], vanished from her base at Fort Hood, Texas, two months before her remains was found
The powerful hashtag encouraged a string of women to come forward, breaking a taboo of speaking out, not so different from the #MeToo wave in 2017 that kicked off a worldwide reckoning for sexual assault and harassment.
According to a fact sheet organized by Protect Our Defenders, a non profit that works for military sexual assault and harassment survivors, in the fiscal year of 2018 a total of 20,500 service members were sexually assaulted or raped, as per Task and Purpose.
And more than 75 percent of those victims did not report a crime at the time.
A third said they didn’t report the abuse out of fear that they’d be ignored or that the process would not be fair.
Less than half of the harassed or assaulted women said they ‘felt well supported by their chain of command’.
On Monday volunteer group Texas EquuSearch came across the remains in an undisclosed area in Coryell County.
The discovery was not too far from the site where the remains of missing soldier Gregory Wedel-Morales were found on June 19. He went missing in August 2019.