Vanessa Guillen’s family is pushing for change in how the military handles sexual harassment. In the wake of the 20-year-old solider’s murder, the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen gained popularity with fellow female soldiers who shared their experiences and touched on the culture of silence. Now, the family, along with their attorney and supporters, are traveling to Washington D.C. to introduce the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill which will allow victims of sexual harassment in the military to report abuse to a third party agency.
The family’s attorney Natalie Khawam said she’s secured a time for the Guillen family to meet with President Trump; they’re asking supporters to join them at 10 a.m. ET on July 30th to march from the Capitol to the White House.
“It’s like a fox in the hen house,” Khawam told the Guardian. “This is an epidemic in our military system, in our culture. It’s cultivated in that place.”
According to Khawam, Guillen told her family about Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, and they believe she told him she’d report him. He killed himself after being confronted by the police about her disappearance, authorities said July 1.
On June 30, her remains were found and, on that same day, Robinson’s partner Cecily Aguilar appeared in court after being accused of helping to get rid of her body. She was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. Aguilar allegedly told the FBI that Robinson, her boyfriend, reached out to her after he killed Guillen to hide the body, alleging they went back to where they left her remains to break them down more.
More than 4,000 women and non-binary veterans and active-duty members have signed a letter directed at the Department of Defense and congressional leadership in solidarity with the Guillen family.
“We are Vanessa Guillen, that’s our story too, it could have easily been any one of us,” Tristeza Ordex, a retired marine corps staff sergeant who helped launch the movement, told The Guardian.
According to a study released by the Defense Department, sexual assault reports were up 3% in 2019 for a total of 6,236 cases. Additionally, the Pentagon found that 1,021 formal sexual harassment complaints were submitted that year—a 10% increase from 2018.