Vanessa Guillén’s Death Puts Spotlight On Sexual Harassment In The US Military

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The remains of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year old US military soldier who went missing in April, were discovered last week in Texas during a search. The prime suspect in the case is a US soldier, who allegedly harassed and murdered Guillén, then later died by suicide himself. Guillén’s family is now seeking justice for their daughter’s death, and the other “men and women in the service suffering from sexual harassment.”

Guillén, who was a Specialist in the US Army, was last seen on April 22, at her station. Following her disappearance, the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating the case, and search parties were sent out over Texas. On June 30, almost two months after Guillén went missing, a dismembered body was found buried in Texas’s Fort Hood area. The US Army confirmed that the remains belonged to Guillén.

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Vanessa Guillén was being Harassed

In a rousing speech to the press and public, Lupe Guillén, the late soldier’s younger sister, demanded justice for her. Between tears, she said, “My sister’s no joke. My sister’s a human being., and I want justice and I want answers because my sister did not do this to herself. Someone did it.”

Aaron David Robinson, who was the prime suspect in the case, allegedly shot himself after Guillén’s remains were found. Guillén’s family confirmed that Robinson had been harassing her for some time now. Natalie Khawam, attorney for the Guilléns, said, “We believe that the person that killed her is the person that sexually harassed her… She was taking a shower, she was in the locker room. He walked in and sat there and she was very creeped out.” Robinson, who was Guillén’s superior, apparently confided in his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar that he bludgeoned his victim to death, and then moved her body, BBC reported. Aguilar, who was found tampering with evidence, is now in custody and could face up to 20 years in prison.

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On a Facebook page titled Find Vanessa Guillén, her younger sister wrote a post calling out all the various kinds of injustices that require investigation in the US military, especially in the Fort Hood area, like “various prostitution rings, the most high suicide rates, racial inequality, lowest retention, damage housing, gang violence, and the pandemic of sexual harassment and assault.”

US Women Soldiers Speak Up

Guillén’s family’s appeal for justice and the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén has sparked a movement, with women soldiers and veterans speaking up about their own experiences of sexual harassment in the army. Women began sharing incidents of rape at military school and by male officers in the ranks, during vigils held for Guillén and on Twitter under the said hashtag.

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Stephanie Gattas, a Navy veteran in San Antonio, said, “We are all angry and we all want to see change.” She added, “It is our job as women veterans to support our sister in arms at this time. This is for the women of the past who have been murdered and raped who have not been able to tell their story.” Over 3000 women veterans and servicewomen have signed a letter addressed to the US Senate and Army, calling out the “systemic failures in the military” and for “justice to be served” to Guillén. They are demanding “the shutdown of Fort Hood” and asking “young Americans to refuse to enlist or accept a commission into any branch of the Armed Forces until these demands are met.”

Image Credit: BBC

Tanvi Akhauri is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.