What You Need to Know About the Vanessa Guillen Case
She disappeared from Fort Hood back in April.
UPDATE, July 2, 2020: During a press conference, Fort Hood CID senior special agent Damon Phelps explained that the United States Army is "aware" that Vanessa Guillen's family believes that she was sexually harassed. However, after an investigation, the Army found no evidence of the claims.
"There has been no information — and we have interviewed hundreds of people — there are no allegations that she had been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed," Phelps told reporters, People reported. "There is no credible information about that."
Over the weekend, remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas, during a search for Private First Class Vanessa Guillen, a soldier who went missing in April. Though the remains have yet to be identified, many believe that they could belong to Guillen.
Her family claims that before she went missing, she was sexually harassed by her sergeant and was too afraid to report the misconduct. While the Army opened an investigation in June, Guillen's family is demanding a congressional investigation into the case, alleging that the Army lied to them repeatedly after they inquired about Guillens's disappearance.
According to People, attorney Natalie Khawam said that she believes Guillen was sexually harassed by a suspect in the case, a soldier who died by suicide last Wednesday. KHOU reports that Guillen told Khawam that she was "creeped out" after a man followed her into the shower and sat down.
In a statement to People, The United States Army Criminal Investigation Command said that the suspect who died by suicide left Fort Hood on Tuesday. The statement continues, saying that law enforcement agencies attempted to make contact with him, but he displayed a weapon and "took his own life." Authorities in Texas arrested another suspect, who the U.S. Army identifies as "the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood Soldier."
Guillen's family says that instead of receiving help when they asked about her disappearance and the alleged harassment, they were met with lies, not facts.
"They lied to our faces every single day [...] which is more than two months," Lupe, Guillen's sister, said during a press conference, adding that the Army "didn't respect my sister. They didn't keep my sister safe. They're always trying to cover up for each other."
Juan Cruz, Guillen's boyfriend, continues to tweet about her disappearance.
"Please help me find my girlfriend," he wrote after she went missing. "She has 3 tattoos on her left arm. Please, anything helps."
The case made headlines in June, when Salma Hayek shared a photo and statement on Instagram explaining that Gloria, Guillen's mother, claims that her daughter "had complained to her about a sergeant sexually harassing her."
"When her mother asked her to report him, Vanessa said other women had reported him and they were not believed," Hayek wrote. "Vanessa and Gloria, I believe you and I pledge to put Vanessa's photo on my stories every day until she is found."
Anybody with information about the Guillen's whereabouts can call Army CID Special Agents at 254-495-7767 or the Military Police Desk at 254- 287-4001. A petition on Change.org demanding that the Army consider all complaints and hold leaders responsible has already earned more than 238,000 signatures.
According to the Battered Women's Justice Project, "nearly 25% of women veterans who seek health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs report experiencing at least one sexual assault while in the military." The organization notes that because personal and professional lines are blurred during military service, it creates an environment of fear, because soldiers do not want others to find out about the misconduct and that they'll be perceived as "weak and unable to accomplish the mission" if they take action.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).