Vanessa Guillén was a 20 year-old United States Army soldier, her friends and family described her as brave, courageous, warm-hearted and determined. She was eager to tackle the duties of a soldier, and serving the country had been her dream since childhood. Quickly she learned the reality that many women face when they enlist in service. Although she never reported sexual harassment through official channels, she told her mother that a sergant had been harassing her. Vanessa told her close friend that the same supervisor walked in on her in the shower and watched her. Despite this, she did not report the incidents because of the fear of retaliation. When her mom asked why she hadn’t reported the incidents, Vanessa replied: “No. They laugh at us there. They laugh at everyone. They don’t believe us. We are nobody.” On April 22nd, on one of her days off, Vanessa Guillén received a message that changed her life. She was lured onto base by sergeant David Robinson with a request about a machine gun that needed to be serviced, and was never seen again. Vanessa had been missing for over two months before some of her dismembered remains were found buried along the Leon River on June 30th. The murder of Vanessa Guillén caused national outcry, and many Americans took to the streets with banners and megaphones demanding justice.
Before her remains were found, people everywhere were demanding justice, demanding answers, and demanding any information. Vanessa Guillén’s family was left in the dark, and did not receive any information regarding her disappearance. Considering the lack of information, the hashtag #findVanessaGuillén started trending, and the question “how did she disappear on base?” was posed. Countless videos of Vanessa’s mom and sisters crying and unable to speak surfaced the internet. It was heart wrenching to watch. Even celebrities like Salma Hayek and Huston Rapper “Baby Bash” joined in the efforts to find Vanessa Guillén.
Vanessa’s disappearance and murder sparked a national movement called #IamVanessaGuillén. Across all social media platforms, hundreds of survivors came forward to share their stories of sexual trauma in the military. In a private Facebook group called “I am Vanessa Guillén” 12,000 female military survivors of sexual abuse were able to find a voice, and a safe community to share their story.
Vanessa Guillén did not die in vain, she empowered many victims of sexual harassment and assault across the nation to speak up and tell their story. With the help of their lawyer, Natalie Khawam, the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act” was passed in 2020. This new law protects victims of sexual violence in the military. The new law excludes commanders from being in military sexual harassment or sexual assault investigations by directing them to request independent investigations. The commanders must also forward the complaints to their next superior officers in the chain of command. This is a historical bill, that has changed the way sexual assault and harassment is reported in the military.
May you rest in peace Vanessa Guillén.
6 thoughts on “#IamVanessaGuillén”
It angers and saddens me to see that women like Vanessa Guillen who serve our country are not being treated with the respect they deserve. A while back I saw a TikTok video of another military woman hiding an air tag in her uniform hat where she wrote, “POV: going to Fort Hood”. The same base in which Vanessa Guillen disappeared, implying the base continues to be dangerous for women. It seems very sketchy to me that there are missing pieces in Guillen’s case and the fact that women still have to go extra measures in case they go missing while under military base speaks a lot about the values of the military force.
I will never forget about Vanessa Guillen. I followed her story from the day it released on every social media platform. What hits even harder is that she is Mexican American, just like me. I think there needs to be protection for women since they are much more disrespected. They are more vulnerable which is a supported argument due to actual studies showing that women suffer more in terms of sexism or even depression, anxiety. It’s terrible to see that the law says we are “equal” to men in everything but in reality that will never been seen the case in many people’s eyes. Personally, this needs to be changed so that future generations do not continue this form of criminal violence and activity on women. I am glad that a new law had been passed (all because of her sister who fought for this to work) that will protect victims of sexual assault. It starts somewhere.
This case has been something that I have been following since day one; there are still so many answers that need to be answered and justice for the family.
There are still so many questions that are left unanswered on this case, and we can all agree it is on purpose. It is a clear sign she was sexually assaulted before her murder, and it is heartbreaking hearing how she was not safe on a place that was supposed to protect her. It is no lie that the military keeps a lot of secrets, and is a toxic dark environment; unfortunately, Vanessa Guillén was a victim of this horrible tragedy.
How did the supervisor even have the access to the shower she was in? Why was she able to be murdered on base without any witnesses despite all the supervision on the base? It seems like there was no intent to protect her by anyone involved in this incident, or women in the military in general.
Why did a supervisor even have access to a shower occupied by a woman to be able to watch her shower? I also don’t understand how you can be missing on a military base and it not raise suspicion among other soldiers and supervisors. How could it have taken 2 months for her to be found and how was she able to be murdered on the base with so many possible witnesses present?