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Vanessa Guillén’s tragedy has sparked a movement to reform toxic environments for women in the military. Photo: Twitter
Vanessa Guillén’s tragedy has sparked a movement to reform toxic environments for women in the military. Photo: Twitter

Rep. Sylvia Garcia presents Bipartisan “I am Vanessa Guillén Act” to Congress

The bill looks to transform the Military’s response to sexual violence and missing servicemembers.

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May 27th, 2022

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Ever since Vanessa Guillén’s tragedy became known nationwide, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) has pledged to seek justice for Vanessa and her family.

After months of calling for #JusticeforVanessaGuillen, it was announced on Sept. 8, that two congressional subcommittees would launch an investigation into the chain of command at Fort Hood, following a spike in deaths — 28 in one year alone, including Guillén’s.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security and the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personell are currently seeking documents and information that could explain how Fort Hood has allowed the series of deaths to occur, and how they have responded to reports of sexual harassment and abuse.

An independent investigation conducted by an entity that is not affiliated with the Army may provide families with answers on what has been going wrong at an army base that has been evading justice for far too long.

The Army has been conducting its own internal investigation into Guillén’s case, and even appointed an “independent panel” to investigate, but it’s important to note panel members have a combined 75 years of experience in the military or Law enforcement. 

All signs – ranging from delayed action, conflicting testimonies, and the main suspect’s suicide – point to a cover-up.

On Sept. 1, Army leadership removed Fort Hood Commander, Maj Gen. Scott Efflandt from his role, and barred him from proceeding to a planned position at a different Texas Army base, citing the multiple troubling cases of sexual assault or deaths of soldiers under his command.

But this was merely a performative attempt at justice, as Efflandt will remain at Fort Hood as a deputy commander, maintaining the toxic environment that has thrived under his command.

The Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus has been calling for a congressional investigation into Fort Hood for weeks, noting “more than one third of women at the base say they’ve been sexually harassed.”

Now that the Congressional Investigation has been launched, Rep. Garcia is still seeking justice for Vanessa’s family to directly address this toxic environment of sexual harassment and unsafe conditions that led to the deaths of Guillén, and most recently, Elder Fernandes.

“This Wednesday, I’ll join [Rep. Jackie Speier (C-CA)], [Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-OK], and a bipartisan group in the House to introduce the #IAmVanessaGuillénAct on behalf of my constituents, the Guillén Family,” wrote Rep. Garcia.

Rep. Speier is Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. 

Also expected to present the bill alongside Rep. Garcia is Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), who also has also been a driving force behind changing the way the Military handles sexual assault.

“From the very beginning, I said we’d get #JusticeForVanessaGuillén and this gets us one step closer,” Garcia continued.
 

“The bill responds to resounding calls for change by revolutionizing the military’s response to missing servicemembers and reports of sexual harrassment and sexual assault by making sexual harrassment a crime withing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of Command,” reads a press release about the bill.

The “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act” will be presented to the House floor in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Sept. 15.

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