Amid the social awakening to systemic racism and violence in the United States, the disappearance of a 20-year-old Army soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, went unnoticed — until now.
Vanessa Guillen, 20, did not return home after being last seen in an armory by another junior soldier, Aaron David Robinson, the prime suspect in her disappearance. Guillen’s trail disappeared from April 22 until dismembered pieces of what are believed to be her remains were found on July 1, 2020.
Just one day before Guillen’s remains were found, Robinson fled Fort Hood and fatally shot himself when police found him and approached him in Killeen, Texas.
The remains found by the FBI near the Lion River, north of Austin, are undergoing DNA analysis that is expected to be positive, and the investigation assumes that Guillen was killed by Robinson at the base and buried with the help of his girlfriend near the river.
Guillen’s family believes her death was related to the sexual harassment the soldier suffered at the base, and they are now pressing Congress to legislate and create an independent agency for soldiers who are victims of sexual harassment and assault.
According to NPR, Guillen never reported the harassment she was subjected to, and her sister, Lupe Guillen, has argued that the soldier “did not believe such a report was taken seriously.”
“My sister was too afraid to report the harassment because no one would listen to her,” Lupe Guillen said. “They take sexual harassment, sexual assault, as a joke. They don’t care.”
In a statement, Fort Hood officials said the criminal investigation “has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance.” Investigators said they plan to further examine the sexual harassment allegations that have come out since Guillen disappeared.
However, several survivors of sexual harassment within the military have turned to social media to ensure that Guillen’s death is not in vain.
Under the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen, several women on social media have shared not only the assaults and harassment they have suffered, but how the institution often chooses to silence the victims and question their sexual orientation or any other reason that might detract from their arguments.
“I see myself in Vanessa because the army has failed me too… BRING MY SISTER HOME”
“Me veo en Vanessa porque el ejército también me ha fallado… TRAE A MI HERMANA A CASA” pic.twitter.com/ZF6kxq4X0S
— Phia 🇲🇽✊🏽 (@Phia_aragon) July 3, 2020
In 1995 I was drugged, raped and sodomized at NNPTC in Orlando. When I went to report it, I was told I would be dishonorably discharged for filing a false report, & I would be charged with adultery because my rapist was married. #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN #MeTooMilitary pic.twitter.com/RFuaFD4SHY
— Mueller, She Wrote Podcast (@MuellerSheWrote) July 5, 2020
I was a E3 when I was raped by another service member while being stationed overseas. I have a lifetime of trauma while he is still in the Army. This happens more than you know. #IamVanessaGuillen #JusticeForVanessaGuillen pic.twitter.com/zdOIEMlV1B
— ashley (@ashtayluh) July 1, 2020
I just turned 20. I wasn’t even done with training when I was assaulted.
I reported. He confessed and 4 other women came forward. He was acquitted. Two E8 jury members laughed in my face after giving the “not guilty” verdict. He got a promotion. I got PTSD. pic.twitter.com/N9BFfo6Mtb
— ~ d ~ (@mf_p0tat0) July 1, 2020
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Please join me in helping protect our service members by letting them know “we are our Soldiers keeper” SSG Denny, Sabrina L. Fort Bliss, TX NOT SHARP, just an NCO that gives a damn firstname.lastname@example.org No service member nor their family should ever experience what happened to her. If you’re in the military and you’re being harassed by someone in uniform, please DO NOT HESITATE to reach out to me. DM me, find me on global, get in touch with me somehow. Because I will not hesitate it… I do not stand for sexual harassment or sexual assault. I promise I will be your voice. #notinmyarmy #iamasoldierskeeper #VanessaGuillen #IamVanessaGuillen #Iamhereforyou #reachout
As Latino Rebels explained, most stories have a lack of accountability as a common denominator.
A Defense Department report for fiscal year 2019 showed that there were 7,825 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims or subjects.
A previous report found that female enlisted personnel between the ages of 17 and 24 are often at the greatest risk of being assaulted. During the same year, the reporting rate declined, a trend that is in line with Lupe Guillen’s argument that her sister as well as so many other women do not have confidence in the ranks.
Most of the complainants also claim that their assailant is still in the army.