On April 22, 2020 Vanessa Guillen, a Fort Hood Soldier, was reported missing. Prior to her disappearance, Vanessa confided in her family about sexual harassment. Her family asked why she didn’t report it. Vanessa stated she was afraid of repercussions. That was the last time her family spoke to her. For two and a half months, her family pleaded and begged the army for answers in her disappearance. On June 30th, a suspect in the case was questioned for a second time. The suspect allegedly admitted information regarding Vanessa’s death. The next day, July 1, 2020, the family’s attorney announced that a second suspect involved in Vanessa’s disappearance committed suicide. On July 5, 2020, the army confirms that the remains discovered in a shallow grave 20 miles away are those of Vanessa Guillen. You can read even more details on the Army Times website.
Vanessa was a soldier for The United States Army. She took an oath to protect our country. Vanessa knew from a young age that serving in the military was what she wanted to do. She reassured her mom that everything was going to be okay. Unfortunately, the organization she longed to join failed her.
Vanessa Guillen died on a military base. On American soil. By a fellow soldier.
If you were to go online and type in “#IamVanessaGuillen,” you will see many women coming forward with their stories regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military. Many of these women are still currently serving or are veterans of the armed forces. The hashtags #IamVanessaGuillen and #JusticeforVanessa have given many men and women of the armed forces a platform to express their anger and frustration with how the military has handled sexual harassment and sexual assault cases.
According to Protect Our Defenders, the vast majority of cases regarding sexual violence go unreported. For example, in 2019, there were 5,699 reports of sexual assault. However, only 363 of these reports were court-martialed and only 138 were convicted of a nonconsensual sex offense. This is the lowest prosecution rate since 2010.
Justice for Vanessa Guillen
It’s time to question how the army handles these cases.
Instead of sweeping this under the rug, it’s time to get answers. It’s time to find out why it took so long for Vanessa’s family to get answers. Where was Vanessa’s leadership? Will they be held accountable? Third, why does it seem like the military is not taking sexual allegations seriously?
Justice for Vanessa is not only for Vanessa. It’s for all the men and women in the military that have suffered from injustice relating to sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s time that the military starting re-evaluating their system. The current system is hurting soldiers and leaving them with scars.
Vanessa Guillen’s mother needs our help as parents. You can hear the frustration, anger, and sadness in her voice. You can feel the amount of love she has for her daughter. Vanessa’s mother did what any parent would do. Seek answers. Seek the truth.
Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute. If Vanessa’s mother didn’t pushback against the military, would they have searched for Vanessa? Or would Vanessa just be considered AWOL (absent without leave) or a deserter? Which then leads me to the next question, why does it seem that change only happens when something tragic happens.
As parents, we won’t be able to bring Vanessa back. But we can help change the way the military handles these cases. Vanessa Guillen was a young woman that was full of life. We cannot let her memory fade. And we must help Vanessa’s mom seek the justice she rightly deserves.
My husband was in the military. But I don’t know if I want to encourage our daughter to join anymore. How do I know for sure my daughter won’t be the next Vanessa?
Let’s help change how the military handles these cases. Our soldiers need us to protect them.
One thing we can do is contact our representatives in congress. We can encourage them to pass legislation that would mandate the creation of a third-party entity where military members could report sexual assault and harassment without fear of reprisal or neglect within their chain of command.