Guillen 1.jpg

Lupe Guillen, sister of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, expresses to the public to bring justice for her sister, in front of her mural in the parking lot of Sick Made Tattoo in Killeen, on July 17, 2020.

AUSTIN, Texas — The family of slain U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who have been fighting for reforms in how the military handles sexual assault and harassment, inched closer this week to their goal of taking investigations of such cases outside a soldier's direct chain of command.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Monday filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — annual legislation that lays out the nation's defense policies — that could be added to the final version for fiscal 2022 if it passes in early November.

The amendment would allow military victims of sexual assault or harassment to file a claim and receive monetary compensation if their cases were mishandled, according to Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam.

Khawam said she pushed for Gillibrand to add the amendment at the last minute so it could potentially be included to the final version of the defense bill and help the Guillens finally find a form of justice.

"Senator Gillibrand filed an amendment to include claims that will provide our soldiers relief, as they need and deserve recourse just like any victim of sexual misconduct," said Khawam, who has represented the Guillen family pro bono since shortly after the Fort Hood soldier's death in April 2020. "Without recourse, there is no teeth in this legislation, and thereby there will be no accountability."

Active-duty soldiers currently cannot sue the Defense Department for pain and suffering if they are victims of sexual crimes. The same is true for families like Vanessa Guillen's, who cannot receive monetary compensation for the death of their loved one or the sexual harassment she received.

What happened to Vanessa Guillen?

In late April, a year after Guillen's disappearance, Army leaders first confirmed that Guillen, 20, was sexually harassed and subjected to retaliation at Fort Hood, as her family had consistently alleged.

Authorities suspect another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on post the morning of April 22, 2020. Robinson fatally shot himself July 1, 2020, as authorities sought to question him, according to Killeen police.

However, Army leaders say it was another noncommissioned officer, whom they declined to identify, who sexually harassed Guillen.

Regardless, the Guillen family for more than a year have pushed for new legislation that would allow outside investigators to look into claims of sexual crimes among soldiers. The legislation initially was called the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act as a nod to the viral social media hashtag that service members used online when describing their own experiences as victims of sexual misconduct in the military.

Lawmakers in support of the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act have explained that current Army protocols are flawed and problematic because the investigators are often those in a victim's direct chain of command and frequently have personal relationships with those accused of a crime and the victim who is reporting it. As a result, victims fear retaliation if those investigators fail to properly investigate without bias.

The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, however, will no longer be a standalone bill but rather incorporated into the defense bill.

While the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act would take sexual misconduct investigations outside the chain of command, Gillibrand's amendment would also allow soldiers to receive up to $800,000 in noneconomic damages, and no cap for economic damages, if investigators were negligent or military members failed to protect them from abuse.

Patrick Murray, director of the national legislative service for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said Wednesday that what the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act set out to accomplish is long overdue, adding that the VFW hopes it will be added to the defense policy bill.

"The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, the amendment portion to the National Defense Authorization, is something the VFW strongly supports, so we're doing everything we can to provide a safe environment for the men and women in service and also make sure that justice is done," Murray said.

The U.S. House and the Senate will conference in late November, selecting the language they want from each chamber's version of the defense bill. Khawam on Tuesday said the final version will emerge by December.

Mayra Guillen, Vanessa's oldest sister, fought alongside Khawam this week to have the amendment added to the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act. On Tuesday, the sister asked everyone to contact their senators and ask them to support the amendment.

"The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act will not only make justice for Vanessa, but for all the victims of sexual misconduct in the military," Guillen said. "This shift in the process of removing cases from the chain of command will not only make reporting safer for our soldiers, but it will also provide a clearer unbiased path to investigate cases."

Mayra Guillen said that if the legislation had been in place when her sister needed help, "then she would have been alive today with us and continuing her career in the Army and her life dream to serve her country."

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Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.

(3) comments

Alvin

@B ubba1: You bet it is and whose leading the pack but Biden followed by Kamala Harris, then whose taking up the rear but old Nancy Pelosi. Now there is a trio to draw from.

In my opinion, we are the worst shape that this country has been in for a long time, if ever, as we have fought a war for twenty years just to have this President say, OK, it's time for us to get out leaving all of the war equipment behind, and what's worse than that is the fact that we left civilians high and dry, alone, to fend for themselves, and when the military came out, what is even worse was that he, the President sent 5000 troops back in creating the confusion of an 'What are we supposed to do' atmosphere that resulted in the killing of 13 more American troops. And we still do not know if the remainder of American citizens are 'in country or out of country' and I suppose we will never know for sure.

And that is the case for this case right here, the case for Spc. Guillen is misinformed as it started out by the Mother of the woman stating her Daughter was harassed, and the case being built up to a crescendo by President Trump getting into the picture, then a Committee being formed, followed by the committee returning to Fort Hood, fllowed by 'the committee' seeking to remove the CID from the picture and installing a civilian group being assigned to serve as administrators of justice in lieu of the CID, who by the way has done a fine job of administering the justice for over 200 years. And now we are being 'pushed' to see that this soldier was wronged as to the fact that 'She was murdered by a fellow soldier, but we are being led as to this Spc. Guillen was the innocent individual who is the case for persuading us citizens that 'We must all spend our wheels in the forethought that all women must be protected from the dangerous males that roam the countryside an that furthermore, that when a case comes forth, it is the sole purpose to award monetary compensation to not only the individual but to her relatives if she is otherwise disposed'.

And I say that 'this is once again the case of our government going overboard in presupposing that 'there has been a decision of fault finding when there was never a fault to be found, or we have been guiled into believing a wrong when there was never a wrong committed or it's being displaced.

But that's our government for you, finding fault when there is none. I personally believe that this young lady was the victim of a murder that was committed on Military grounds, and the incidental fact, that was disclosed by her Mother soas not to be substantiated by her person, that she was the victim of being harassed not sexually molested, but harassed, and is incidental to the facts of this case. So she does not deserve the notoriety that this case presents.

So let's all clear our thoughts and let's let this woman 'rest in peace' for it's far too long that this has risen to the bubbling point.

Bubba1

The efforts of the family and congress are uninformed, wrong-headed and dangerous. Their complete lack of knowledge about the military and its justice system makes these people dangerous.

Alvin

October 3, 2021

'He's an old man that remembers what it used to be to be an 'American'.

Copy: 'Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen's family fights to get military reforms into defense policy bill'

Copy: 'AUSTIN, Texas — The family of slain U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who have been fighting for reforms in how the military handles sexual assault and harassment, inched closer this week to their goal of taking investigations of such cases outside a soldier's direct chain of command.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Monday filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — annual legislation that lays out the nation's defense policies — that could be added to the final version for fiscal 2022 if it passes in early November.

The amendment would allow military victims of sexual assault or harassment to file a claim and receive monetary compensation if their cases were mishandled, according to Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam.

Khawam said she pushed for Gillibrand to add the amendment at the last minute so it could potentially be included to the final version of the defense bill and help the Guillens finally find a form of justice.

The amendment would allow military victims of sexual assault or harassment to file a claim and receive monetary compensation if their cases were mishandled, according to Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam. End of copy.

Now that is what the family of the slain soldier is really wanting, money, money, money. And it all comes to the head of 'the soldier said she was harassed, but that she did not want to report it to her superiors as she was afraid of retaliation. So to my mind, this is 'after the fact reporting of secondary evidence and not first hand reporting of facts. Somebody said, or I was told'. That should not be considered as fact, but now I guess it is.

Copy: "Senator Gillibrand filed an amendment to include claims that will provide our soldiers relief, as they need and deserve recourse just like any victim of sexual misconduct," said Khawam, who has represented the Guillen family pro bono since shortly after the Fort Hood soldier's death in April 2020. "Without recourse, there is no teeth in this legislation, and thereby there will be no accountability."

Active-duty soldiers currently cannot sue the Defense Department for pain and suffering if they are victims of sexual crimes. The same is true for families like Vanessa Guillen's, who cannot receive monetary compensation for the death of their loved one or the sexual harassment she received.' End of copy.

So it all comes down to 'MONEY, MONEY, MONEY' for in the case of 'sexual harassment, what crime was committed? Have we now resorted to if someone is 'harassed' is it a crime of nature? Have we now resorted to the point that we can no longer 'speak to someone for fear of that being reported as harassment and that individual being sued? Are we now going to have to include insurance for if a person claims harassment, and sues, that we will have to include insurance? And is it to be that in the death of said individual, then the spouse or a loved one can sue even the event of a 3rd party individual?

Copy: 'What happened to Vanessa Guillen?

In late April, a year after Guillen's disappearance, Army leaders first confirmed that Guillen, 20, was sexually harassed and subjected to retaliation at Fort Hood, as her family had consistently alleged.

Authorities suspect another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on post the morning of April 22, 2020. Robinson fatally shot himself July 1, 2020, as authorities sought to question him, according to Killeen police.

However, Army leaders say it was another noncommissioned officer, whom they declined to identify, who sexually harassed Guillen.

Regardless, the Guillen family for more than a year have pushed for new legislation that would allow outside investigators to look into claims of sexual crimes among soldiers. The legislation initially was called the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act as a nod to the viral social media hashtag that service members used online when describing their own experiences as victims of sexual misconduct in the military.' End of copy.

Now if I remember correctly the sequence of events, after her death was confirmed, her Mother said that she had not reported to her superiors that she had been harassed. So let's read that again:

Copy: 'In late April, a year after Guillen's disappearance, Army leaders first confirmed that Guillen, 20, was sexually harassed and subjected to retaliation at Fort Hood, as her family had consistently alleged.

Authorities suspect another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on post the morning of April 22, 2020. Robinson fatally shot himself July 1, 2020, as authorities sought to question him, according to Killeen police.' End of copy.

Authorities suspect another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aron Robinson, beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on post the morning of April 22, 2020. Robinson fatally shot himself July 1, 2020, as authorities sought to question him, according to Killeen police. What a turn of events, from her Mother saying, to this individual beating her to death with a hammer, to that individual shooting himself, according to Killeen police. That is a civilian operation, not even the military so how is it they are involved? I am of the opinion that it was completely a military investigation as it took place on a military installation and it involved members of the military, so why was it that the Killeen, Texas brought into the picture in the first place, was it because the body was disposed of on civilian ground? The act of her being murdered was strictly conducted on military property. Who conducted the investigation, Killeen, Texas or the Military police that identified where she was killed, and by whom, or was it another case of hearsay evidence by the woman assisted him dispose of the body and where did he get the gun with which to kill himself. Too many questions to my way of thinking, but what do I know.

Copy: 'Regardless, the Guillen family for more than a year have pushed for new legislation that would allow outside investigators to look into claims of sexual crimes among soldiers. The legislation initially was called the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act as a nod to the viral social media hashtag that service members used online when describing their own experiences as victims of sexual misconduct in the military'. End of copy.

So it all boils down to, as to my opinion, the family wants money as compensation for the incident of harassment, and the way this is turning out, they will get it as 'in my opinion, nobody has any common sense anymore and with the turn of a switch anybody can be sued over anything anymore. This was all hearsay evidence,the individual killed himself, and now the family wants to sue the military, not the individual but the military, and they will probably win because the military is defenseless. It's all, in my opinion, because our Congress has become embroiled in this case and you know our Congress is never wrong.

So this is a case of 'Who done it' because nothing is concrete as the one suspect is not named by the military so 'who is to be blamed in a case that is superficial such as this is'.

Copy: "The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act will not only make justice for Vanessa, but for all the victims of sexual misconduct in the military," Guillen said. "This shift in the process of removing cases from the chain of command will not only make reporting safer for our soldiers, but it will also provide a clearer unbiased path to investigate cases." End of copy.

This gets me, the family doesn't want justice for her being killed, but for her being harassed, and they want an outside justice organization to be convened, not the military CID, but a civilian organization. Strange in my opinion.

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