WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Congressman Markwayne Mullin are reintroducing the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, in honor of the specialist who was murdered by another enlisted soldier in 2020.
Service members are required to report harassment to their chain of command. When Guillen reported sexual harassment to her platoon leader at Fort Hood, Speier says her command didn’t investigate. “They moved him to another unit where he could victimize others,” she said at a press conference Thursday.
Speier says Guillen was too afraid to come forward when another soldier began to sexually harass her. The soldier, Aaron Robinson, murdered her and buried her remains about 30 miles away from the military base. Robinson later took his own life.
“This act will bring the help that my sister needed, the voice that my sister needed because we must be the voice for the voiceless and bring the change,” said Lupe Guillen, Vanessa’s sister. “As human beings, we must come together and protect those that protect us.”
Speier and other Congresspeople have spent the last few months reviewing investigation reports by the U.S. Army’s Command Investigation and the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee. “What we found was a broken and toxic culture where sexual assault is rampant and tolerated,” said Speier.
The congresswoman condemned Fort Hood investigators for being “under experienced, under-researched, or overmatched,” and senior leadership for being “unwilling or incapable of taking charge or responsibility.” Speier also criticized Fort Hood for allowing Robinson to escape from confinement.
The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act takes cases out of the chain of command and requires investigators to be experienced professionals. It also calls on the Department of Defense to restructure sexual assault and harassment prevention and response programs and overhaul the criminal investigation process. The legislation also requires compensation for victims of sexual violence.