The family of murdered Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén has filed a lawsuit seeking $35 million in damages from the United States government. According to the Associated Press, the damages are based on “sexual harassment, abuse, assault, rape, sodomy and wrongful death.”
“This will be an opportunity for every victim to feel not only like they have a voice but that they can be made whole,” said Natalie Khawam, who filed the lawsuit for the family.
Guillén, a 20-year-old Army Specialist, was killed on April 22, 2020, inside an armory in Fort Hood, Texas, by a fellow soldier. Her remains were found buried two months later along the Leon River. The solider who murdered Guillén killed himself when law enforcement attempted to arrest him after he escaped to nearby Killeen, Texas.
During a military investigation, it was confirmed that Guillén had been sexually harassed during her time at Fort Hood and that action to stop the abuse was not taken by leaders at the base. The harassment led to Guillén having suicidal thoughts.
Last week, a court ruled that a law prohibiting members of the military from seeking damages for injuries sustained during service did not apply in Guillén’s case. Guillén told her mother she had been sexually harassed in 2019, and the military’s investigation confirmed it.
“Why would anyone think, ‘Let me go sign up and serve our country, fight for our country, take bullets, be maimed, die for our country,’ yet when it comes to something as a horrible as sexual assault or something, they don’t have any recourse?” Khawam told the Texas Tribune.
Last year, an access gate was installed at Fort Hood in honor of Guillén and as her sister Mayra put it, to “[remind] all those soldiers who go in day and night that what happened shouldn’t happen ever again.”