In April 2020, Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old soldier from Texas, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. No one knew of his whereabouts for a few months.
Guillen’s bodily remains were discovered in July 2020 after the man who murdered her died by suicide. Further investigation revealed that she had also been sexually harassed while at the US Army base at Fort Hood, Texas, which significantly affected her mental health.
More than two years later, on Friday, August 12, 2022, Vanessa Guillen’s family filed a lawsuit against the US government, seeking $35 million in damages. The lawsuit came after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in San Francisco on Thursday August 11 that an Army colonel could sue a former Air Force general for a sexual assault allegation.
The Guillen family is seeking damages for the sexual harassment, abuse, assault, rape, sodomy and wrongful death of their daughter at the hands of the military.
“From October 1, 2019 to April 22, 2020, SPC. Vanessa Guillen has suffered mental anguish, fear, emotional distress, physical injury and death from sexual harassment, rape, sodomy and physical assault. Additionally, Vanessa Guillen and her heirs lost their livelihood and income up to the date of her natural death.
BREAKING: The family of slain Army specialist Vanessa Guillen has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the US government. The lawsuit says Guillen was harassed at Fort Hood and told her family she didn’t report it for fear of retaliation.
Natalie Khawam, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Vanessa Guillen’s family, said:
“It will be an opportunity for each victim to feel not only that they have a voice, but that they can be healed.”
In light of the favorable 9th Circuit ruling yesterday, we have duly filed a lawsuit on behalf of Vanessa Guillen.
Vanessa Guillen’s case is a huge step forward for victims of military sexual assault
In a profession historically male-dominated, female victims of assault and harassment are silenced every day. Fear of reprisal haunts victims who are forced to remain silent or face the wrath of such institutions.
Guillen was also forced into silence because she feared the consequences. The lawsuit filed by the Guillen family mentions at least two incidents of sexual harassment suffered by the young soldier at her base camp.
According to his sister Mayra Guillen,
“Before a regimental field training exercise in September 2019, a superior solicited my sister to participate in a sex act**l, which she translated from English to Spanish as a “threesome”…
The second incident occurred when Vanessa was conducting personal hygiene activities during the regimental field training exercise during the same period.
These events severely affected Guillen’s mental health, to the point that she had repeated thoughts of suicide. Her cold-blooded murder brought to light the perilous environment in which female soldiers worked.
The Fort Hood soldier’s tragic death inspired the military justice reform bill, which will strip military commanders of all authority and instead provide independent prosecutors with agency in cases of sexual assault allegations and other serious crimes.