The story of Vanessa Guillén has captured the nation today, following reports that unidentified body remains were found near the Fort Hood base in Killeen, Texas. Guillén, a 20-year-old soldier, was last seen on April 22.
Her mother said that prior to her disappearance, Guillén had come forth to her with allegations that she had been sexually harassed by superiors.
“My sister deserves justice, that’s why we demand a Congressional investigation to be done, because Fort Hood doesn’t do anything, at all, and this is proof they have lied to us,” Guillén’s sister, Vanessa, said in tears during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
As Vanessa Guillén’s name trends across the country, service members —mostly women— are sharing their stories of sexual assault and abuse in the military, using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.
Here are some of their stories:
Just turned 21. I attempted to report it and they were more concerned of my sexual orientation and threaten to Out me (wasn’t ready). He got a promotion, gets to retire with full benefits while I had to smile and move to a new base as a trouble maker. #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN pic.twitter.com/aJtdjz2BBy
— Joanna Bahena? (@BahenaJoanna) July 1, 2020
The military has toxic leadership like in any industry; certain individuals prey on vulnerable male & females for there personal sexual endeavors. It’s time take accountability for those in uniform as well. The military failed me when I got raped. @USArmy #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN pic.twitter.com/ZI7TqklvUW
— ??Thai Ventures?? (@thai_ventures) July 1, 2020
#IAMVANESSAGUILLEN “I was sexually harassed on Camp Humphreys, SK. I reported it & five months later I was found dead outside my barracks. I can’t tell my story b my Mom is my voice. I am Pfc. Adrienne C. Barillas” I will also b Pfc. Vanessa Guillen’s voice. #FindVanessaGuillen pic.twitter.com/KkpWexny46
— Emogene Lopez (@Belgenie) June 24, 2020
July 2011, in the barracks. I found out I was pregnant shortly after. We were both active duty. He told me he loved me & convinced me to get married. He was abusive & Army did nothing to help. Once I left, my son & I were homeless. Fort Carson betrayed me ? pic.twitter.com/poQ5vpqhKI
— Casey ??Army Vet (@Casey_ArmyVet) July 1, 2020
My name is Tiffany & #IAmVanessaGuillen I was sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, raped, & physically threatened, while at my first base, 12 yrs ago. I didn’t report it until 2019. I am one of the many faces of military sexual trauma. #MilitarySexualTrauma #FindVanessaGuillen pic.twitter.com/NaWTXcxk0s
— Tiffany Blankenship (@TiffanyClarissa) July 1, 2020
In 2006 I was brutally raped by a member of the United States Coast Guard. I was locked up in a closet for reporting the rape. I was blamed, shamed, and eventually lost my career.
— Panayiota Bertzikis (@panayiotab) June 25, 2020
My name is Emily. I was at my first duty station 11 yrs ago. I was sleeping, Drunk Marines kicked in my barracks door and raped me. I finally locked myself in the bathroom and they yelled no one will believe you, you are a new female, we will get away with this #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN
— Emily Elizabeth (@eemz_973) July 1, 2020
— мσ?? (@j_ust_m_o) June 25, 2020
Most of the stories have one thing in common: lack of accountability. A 2019 Defense Department’s fiscal year 2019 report said there were 7,825 sexual assault reports involving service members as victims or subjects. A previous report found that enlisted women ages 17 to 24 were at the highest risk of being assaulted. That same year, the rate of reporting declined, a trend some say reflects a lack of trust in the ranks.
Some of those who shared their stories said their assailant was still in the military.
I served active duty as a jet mechanic.
The men who sexually assaulted me are still serving in uniform today.
STATISTICALLY you are more likely to get raped by someone in the same uniform as you than you are to be shot at by the enemy. Read that again.
— SheCow✊?✊?✊?✊?✊? (@She__Cow) June 30, 2020
#IAMVANESSAGUILLEN I was 18, & after our “Trial” i didnt speak about it. I understand the corruption in CID & in our leadership. To this day that man is still on Fort Bragg. I tried to “forget about it” I understand the rumors, the deceptions & deceivers. This must end. pic.twitter.com/6wBMgJkyqO
— Jaanaae (@simply_jaanaae) June 24, 2020
A suspect in Guillén’s case, another soldier, was found dead from a self-inflicted wound on Tuesday evening.
Chris Grey, a spokesperson for the Army Criminal Investigation Division told ABC13 that the case is still under investigation. “There is still a lot of investigative work to be done and we ask for the public and media’s patience,” Grey said.
Investigators say that it may take some time to identify the human remains found. And while the family’s attorney believes the remains are those of Vanessa Guillén, her younger sister says she’s holding out for hope: “The human remains have not been confirmed, but I won’t lose hope in God.”
Amanda Alcántara is the Digital Media Editor at Futuro Media. She tweets from @YoSoy_Amanda.