Women Veterans Demand Justice for Vanessa Guillen

Connecting Vets
July 06, 2020 - 10:45 am

By Elizabeth Howe and Abbie Bennett

Close to 2,000 women veterans and servicewomen signed an open letter demanding justice for Spc. Vanessa Guillen within the first 36 hours of the letter's publication. The letter calls for a Congressional investigation into Guillen's disappearance, the resignation of every person in her chain of command at Fort Hood in Texas, the closure of Fort Hood, and a halt to all enlistments in the military until justice is served.

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The remains of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen were officially identified on July 5 -- Guillen went missing on April 22.

"For over two months, the disturbing circumstances surrounding Spc. Guillen's disappearance and the environment of sexual harassment she endured in her unit prior to her murder have gripped the attention of various communities across the country and incited a resounding need for the utmost accountability and attention," the open letter reads.

The letter -- addressed to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and others -- cites issues of sexual harassment and race as key factors in the military justice system's failure of Guillen. The grassroots effort is led by women vets, servicewomen and advocates, especially Latina veterans.

"Despite recent updates in the case the following facts are immutable: that Spc. Vanessa Guillen told her family she was being sexually harassed at her unit; that Spc. Vanessa Guillen feared she would not be believed, and feared retaliation if she reported the sexual harassment; and that thousands of current and former servicewomen recognize themselves in Spc. Vanessa Guillen's experience, sharing their own stories under the viral hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen. Their experiences expose the military's systemic and longstanding failure to effectively address rampant sexual assault and sexual harassment in the ranks," the letter continues.

The letter followed a kind of reignition of the #MeToo movement in the military community online after details of Guillen's death surfaced, featuring an outpouring of stories from women veterans and service members on social media-- stories of their experiences with sexual harassment, assault, rape and other discrimination and harm in the service with the hashtag "#IAmVanessaGuillen."

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