If A Latina U.S. Army Specialist Is Murdered On A Military Base, Does Anyone Care?
Breaking the unbearable silence of the military sexual harassment of Vanessa Guillen
An American outrage. U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen was murdered on April 22, 2020. Killed by a fellow soldier at Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas. Her killer, Aaron Robinson, took the easy way out, ending his life last week as police closed in on him for questioning. Unless you are in Houston, Texas, perhaps this story that you are reading is the first time you’ve heard of Vanessa Guillen, who was just 20 years old.
At this point, a warning: some of what you are about to read, if you choose to go any further than this sentence, is graphic, disturbing and upsetting. Writing the words themselves were difficult.
Robinson’s accomplice, Cecily Aguilar, his girlfriend, admitted in a five-page affidavit that Robinson, also 20, had repeatedly struck Guillen in the head with a hammer in the armory room on the base at Fort Hood. Later, Aguilar, 22, and Robinson used a machete to chop Guillen’s dead body up into pieces. They discarded her remains into a river about 20 miles away from Fort Hood, some of the remains embedded into concrete.
The horror of this sickening violence underscores the troubling, slow response by Fort Hood Army officials, whom according to Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam, hadn’t been in contact with the family about Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance or death until more than two months after she was killed. Only when the family drove about 20 hours or more from Texas to Washington, D.C. to speak to politicians and demand answers from the Army did the family receive word from Fort Hood officials that remains had been found. (As of this writing the Army has not independently confirmed that the remains are those of Ms. Guillen.)
One of the other very troubling (though sadly not necessarily surprising) aspects surrounding the murder of Vanessa Guillen is that she had also been experiencing sexual harassment by higher-ranking male military personnel. One such incident she complained of to friends and family was a male officer walking in and watching her while she showered.
Vanessa Guillen had chosen to deal with the sexual harassment she suffered herself rather than report up the chain of command. Countless female officers reporting sexual harassment by male officers to the Army chain of command suffered more hostility, ostracism and violence. (Also see the documentary film “The Invisible War”.)
While questions remain about the murder of Vanessa Guillen, including whether there was a cover-up within the Army ranks at Fort Hood (Attorney Khawam stated recently that all the surveillance cameras at the Fort Hood army base had been disengaged on April 22), the demand for justice for Specialist Guillen grows. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Sylvia Garcia (one of the House Impeachment Managers earlier this year) have pledged to hold congressional investigations into Guillen’s death and sexual harassment at Fort Hood army base.
For those interested in justice for Vanessa Guillen and supporting her family please follow her sister Mayra Guillen, Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam and Rep. Sylvia Garcia, all on Twitter. The House Armed Services Committee would be one of the Congressional investigative bodies to look into the death of Vanessa Guillen. The committee phone number: 202–225–4151.
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