The family of a young soldier who was killed at the Fort Hood Army Base in Kileen, Texas, where she was stationed, is demanding answers after the woman’s body was found dismembered and partially burned in a shallow grave near the military facility. The family is also demanding the total closure of Fort Hood, and calling on potential enlistees to think twice before they sign up to join the military
Vanessa Guillen — who was just 20 years old — had been missing since April, shortly after she told her family that she was being sexually harassed by multiple men she worked with on the base. Guillen did not file a report at the time because she was afraid of what these men might do in retaliation, and she expressed these concerns to her family around the time that she disappeared.
Vanessa’s sister, Lupe Guillen, said Vanessa was afraid to report what was happening because the military does not take allegations of sexual assault or harassment seriously. She then called on potential enlistees to reconsider joining the military.
“Knowing that this could happen to anyone, knowing that there’s more victims out there, would you let your child, your son or daughter, sign a contract with the Army knowing that teir life is at risk? My sister deserves to be protected. Your child deserves to be protected. Don’t let them recruit you until we get justice — until Vanessa gets justice,” Lupe said, according to ABC News.
Members of the family have also said that they believe a cover-up is taking place, and that there is a culture of abuse that has been accepted at the base for many years. According to a 2018 RAND study, Fort Hood had the highest number of reported sexual assaults and rapes of any US military facility worldwide, based on data from 2014.
In fact, sexual violence is a very serious problem for women in the military regardless of where they are stationed. This behavior is so ubiquitous that some women who join end up accepting and internalizing the abusive mentality of their peers.
Just after the details of the killing were released earlier this week, Air Force Lt. Col. Betsy Schoeller suggested that Guillen deserved what she got, because sexual harassment is “the price of admission” in a “good ole boy club.”
The family’s attorney, Natalie Kwaham, suspects that there was some type of cover-up at the base, and said that the family’s investigation was blocked every step of the way.
Kahwam said military officials at the base “should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Protocol was breached in every manner. We lost one of our own on our own base. Unacceptable. It should never happen. Ever,” Kahwam said.
“This should never have happened. We will never know what happened, ever, until we get a congressional investigation. Because everything we were given was lies, it was evasive. They were not sincere. They were actually very disingenuous to us. I don’t know who’s covering up for who, but it doesn’t matter. We lost a life. We lost a beautiful young soldier. It’s time we fix our system,” she added.
After Vanessa’s body was found, the case began to develop more quickly, leading to the identifications of multiple suspects. One of the suspects, who the Guillen family attorney identified as another soldier by the name of Aaron David Robinson, was tracked down by police but he shot and killed himself before he could be apprehended.
The other suspect is Robinson’s girlfriend, who admitted to helping him bury the body. Robinson is reportedly one of the soldiers who Guillen wanted to report for sexual harassment.
As more details about this case are coming out, other soldiers who were victims of sexual assault or harassment have shared their stories with the hashtag #IamVanessaGuillen.