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Vanessa Guillen's death sparks military MeToo movement, army personnel use #IamVanessaGuillen to speak out

Vanessa Guillen's death has led to many army personnel and veterans speaking out about their experiences with sexual harassment
(US Army Forces Command)
(US Army Forces Command)

The shocking death of US soldier Vanessa Guillen had made headlines with the nation demanding justice. While an investigation into her death continues, many servicemen, servicewomen and veterans have taken to social media to share their experiences of sexual harassment in the US Military. 

Many social media users are using the hashtag #IamVanessaGuillen and are calling to end what Guillen's family and advocates say is an "epidemic" of sexual harassment and violence in the army, USA Today reveals. The former Chief Prosecutor of the Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, Col. Don Christensen said, "The #IamVanessaGuillen hashtag, I think, is really the first time that military men and women have felt empowered to speak out. The military hasn’t had their #MeToo movement yet, until now."

(US Army Forces Command)

"The fear of retaliation has silenced too many survivors, and I think this could be a potential sea change that breaks down the resistance of the generals and admirals who want to continue with the status quo," Christensen added. 

Many of these social media users also took to talking about what they are had gone through as they demanded justice for Vanessa. One such user shared, "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."

Another social media user added, "#IAMVANESSAGUILLEN I served active duty as a jet mechanic. The men who sexually assaulted me are still serving in uniform today. STATISTICALLY you are more likely to get raped by someone in the same uniform as you than you are to be shot at by the enemy. Read that again."

"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," wrote another Twitter user. 

Guillen, a 20-year-old private first class, was last seen in the parking lot of the Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at around 1 pm on April 22, 2020. Her body was found two months after she had disappeared. The primary suspect in her disappearance, Aaron David Robinson, a 20-year-old Army Specialist from Illinois who entered the Army in October 2017, killed himself on July 1 when the authorities tried to contact him. Another suspect, Cecily Anne Aguilar, has been charged with evidence tampering and is currently in custody.

Guillen’s family also revealed that the female soldier was being subjected to sexual harassment during her time in the army. Guillen's family attorney, Natalie Khawam, shared that the soldier had an altercation with Robinson just before she went missing. Khawam said that Guillen saw photos on Robinson's phone and confronted him regarding "having an affair with someone married to a former soldier." An incensed Robinson then told her he wasn't going to let her ruin his military career and hit her with a hammer. The brutal attack left blood all over the armory room, where he stored her body in a case before leaving the base to buy supplies he would use to dispose of her body. Khawam claimed Robinson then used a machete to dismember Guillen's body, burned it, and encased parts of her in cement. Prosecutors said his attempts to burn the body did not work and that he then placed her remains in three different holes before covering them back up.

Christensen also shared, "The Army’s number one concern was about damage control to them, verses helping Vanessa Guillén and helping her family. Vanessa’s family has said that she told them she was being sexually harassed, and [then] she’s murdered."

"For the army to say, ‘Well, there’s no credible evidence that she was sexually harassed,’ is just the dismissive attitude that they show time and again when confronted with sexual harassment...It’s just another clarion call why we need to really reform the military process for handling these cases," he continued.