WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers and family members of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillen introduced a bill on Wednesday to make sure future service members don’t share her fate.
Guillen’s family believes she was the victim of sexual harassment within the U.S. Army and was afraid to report it. She disappeared in April and was missing for months before her remains were found.
The group that introduced the legislation Wednesday says it will ensure the women and men who serve our country are safe to report sexual violence without fear or retaliation.
“She is now an American hero that will save lots of lives,” Mayra Guillen, Vanessa Guillen’s older sister said. “Military members, both men and women, deserve to have equal rights.”
The bill in Guillen’s honor was introduced at the U.S. Capitol with help from her family just months after Guillen was murdered by a fellow soldier from the Fort Hood Military Base in Texas.
Democrat Jackie Speier and Republican Markwayne Mullin are leading the bipartisan charge for the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act.
“This is the military’s Me Too moment, and we are going to take full advantage to amplify it,” Rep. Speier (D-CA) said.
The bill would allow members of the military to report sexual harassment to a third party and make it a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It would also move prosecution decisions of sexual assault and harassment cases out of the chain of command.
“This systemic issue that’s been going on inside of DoD isn’t any different than the systemic issue we have in the civilian world, too,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) said. “The problem is the way they treat them and the way they prosecute the crimes.”
Fort Hood is considered the most violent base in the country with nearly 30 deaths this year – a third under unusual or suspicious circumstances.
Democrats expect the bill to pass in the U.S. House. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) urged the Senate to act too – not only for Guillen, but for the thousands of military service members who have come forward as victims since her murder.
“The Army and Fort Hood failed her but in her name, we make the comprehensive changes to stop this from ever happening again,” Garcia said.
Lawmakers plan on traveling to Fort Hood on Thursday to meet with leadership and tour the sites where the remains of Guillen and other service members have been found.
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