Military Servicewomen Call for Congressional Investigation into Vanessa Guillén’s Murder

AUSTIN, TX - JULY 06: People pay respects at a mural of Vanessa Guillen, a soldier based at nearby Fort Hood on July 6, 2020 in Austin, Texas. A suspect in the disappearance of Guillen, whose remains were found in a shallow grave, faced a judge Monday morning. (Photo by …
Sergio Flores/Getty Images

A grassroots network of women veterans, active-duty servicewomen, and advocates are calling for a congressional investigation into the circumstances of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén’s murder in April at Fort Hood, Texas.

Guillén, 20, disappeared in April, but her remains were not found until late June. During that time, women veterans began calling out for the Army to do more to find her, citing her family’s claims that she been sexually harassed but feared reporting it to commanders.

Guillén’s remains were found June 30 in a shallow grave by the Leon River in Texas. That same day, suspect Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, shot and killed himself after being approached by authorities. His girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, is in custody. Robinson reportedly lured Guillén to an armory he was working at and killed her with a hammer, enlisting Aguilar’s support to bury her body.

Guillén’s disappearance and murder has sparked a groundswell of anger among women veterans and women currently serving who have also faced instances of sexual assault and harassment in the military. Many have spoken out about their personal stories on social media.

Representatives of different female veteran advocacy groups have now come together to write a letter to Pentagon, Army, and congressional leaders to demand that Congress launch a probe into what happened to Guillén and why it took so long to find her.

“What frustrates me the most is if she was a missing weapon, they would have shut down that base, and they wouldn’t have let anybody leave until they found her and they found that weapon,” said Lucy C. Del Gaudio, an Army and Gulf War veteran and military sexual trauma survivor.

“That’s what’s so frustrating to me, that a weapon has more value than an actual human being,” she said.

The letter backs demands made by Guillén’s family, including a congressional investigation into her disappearance, the resignation of everyone in her chain of command at Fort Hood, Texas, including the base’s commanding general, the closure of Fort Hood, and a halt to all enlistments in the military until “justice is served.”

They wrote in the July 4 letter:

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 service women recognize themselves in Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s experience, sharing their own stories and 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.

Del Gaudio said that more than 3,000 women veterans and currently-serving women have signed the letter, which will go shortly to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, and the top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.

Del Gaudio got actress Rose McGowan, herself a sexual assault survivor, to tweet about the letter.

“There will be no July 4th for Vanessa Guillen. @USArmy failed her as they do so many who try to report sexual harassment/assault,” McGowan tweeted.

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