Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen was 20-years-old when she was murdered at the hands of another army specialist named Aaron Robinson, 20. Or at least it’s believed Robinson killed her. He never was charged for the crime because shot and killed himself when police went to arrest him, according to the New York Times.
Guillen was last seen on April 22nd at Fort Hood in Texas where she was stationed and worked with her alleged murderer, but her remains weren’t discovered until June 30. In the interim, her family said Guillen had told them she’d been sexually harassed but was afraid to make an official report.
Guillen’s sister, Lupe, told ABC News on July 1, “She was afraid to report it. She reported it to her friends. She reported it to her family. She even reported to other soldiers on base, but she didn’t want to do a formal report because she was afraid of retaliation and being blackballed, and she, like most victims, just tried to deal with it herself.”
In the aftermath of Guillen’s death and a series of other crimes that have been ongoing at the Fort Hood military base in the last several years, Congress issued an investigation into “an alarming pattern of recent tragedies at Fort Hood, Texas.”
According to the Army, between 2014 and 2019, there were an average of 129 felonies committed annually at Fort Hood, including cases of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault. During an August visit to Fort Hood, you acknowledged, “The numbers are high here.” They are the highest, the most cases for sexual assault and harassment murders for our entire formation of the US Army.
According to the Congressional subcommittees who are doing the investigation, they believed those crimes “may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.”
Army Secretary McCarthy Said He’s Angry, Frustrated & Disappointed About What Happened to Guillen
Between March and August this year, five soldiers assigned to Fort Hood have been killed, according to Stars and Stripes, who reported, “Four of those occurred off base, but Guillen was killed during the workday in an arms room by fellow soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson.”
According to the New York Times, Robinson killed Guillen by beating her in the head with a hammer on base, then moving her body in a large box before dismembering and burning her with the help of his girlfriend Cecily Augilar.
Stars and Stripes reported that McCarthy Said in August:
Anger and frustration in a case like Vanessa’s is necessary. I’m angry, frustrated and disappointed. We’re heartbroken. We rely on these units to protect our way of life. We’re going to do everything that we can to prevent these types of things from happening, to learn from this and to move on. But we will do everything we can to protect her legacy by making enduring changes.
McCarthy Said ‘We Must Do Better’
“WE MUST DO BETTER” 🚨 Secretary of Army Ryan McCarthy says they will release the results of the independent review into Fort Hood’s command climate on December 8th, 2020. #BREAKING #abc13 #vanessaguillen #iamvanessaguillen pic.twitter.com/VLgnz99GyI
— Steve Campion (@SteveABC13) November 19, 2020
The findings of the investigation into Guillen’s murder are set to be released on December 8, according to November 18 Stars and Stripes article, but McCarthy recently reviewed the report himself. He said in a taped video on Thursday:
Leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene when they recognize actions that bring harm to our soldiers, and to the integrity of our institution. If we do not have the trust of America — nothing else matters…
…My preliminary review of the report, recent cases, and recent media coverage have hardened my belief that the army SHARP program hasn’t achieved its mandate to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual harassment by creating a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the army family…
…It is clear. We have significant work to do to regain our soldiers’ trust in our sexual harassment, sexual response and prevention program.
McCarthy said when they release the report and its findings on the 8th, they’ll also release an “action plan to address the recommendations.”
Within the Military ‘13,000 Women Experienced Some Kind of Contact or Penetrative Sexual Assault in 2018’
The SHARP program, or the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, has focused its efforts in five main areas since 2009, according to an army-issued report.
Goals include “preventing sexual assault,” running “competent and sensitive investigations of sexual assault, accountability for the perpetrators of sexual assault, assistance to, and advocacy for, the victims of sexual assault, and effective assessment of SHARP programs.”
Yet according to the Department of Defense’s 2018 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, the sexual assault of women in the military increased in the last couple of years, with the youngest women bearing the brunt of those assaults.
The DoD report says:
The Department’s scientific survey of the active-duty force in
Fiscal Year 2018 found that the estimated past-year prevalence
(number of Service members endorsing an experience) of
sexual assault increased, primarily for female service members
ages 17 to 24.
About 6.2 percent of active-duty women indicated experiencing a sexual assault in the year prior to being surveyed. This rate reflects a statistically significant increase compared to the 4.3 percent for women measured in 2016.
The estimated prevalence rate for active duty men remained statistically unchanged at 0.7 percent.
Using these rates, the Department estimates 20,500 service members, representing about 13,000 women and 7,500 men, experienced some kind of contact or penetrative sexual assault in 2018, up from approximately 14,900 in 2016.
The survey, which is answered anonymously, also says that only about one out of three service members make an official report about their assaults, still, they say that’s about quadruple the amount of reports from a decade ago.
The DoD report also notes that sexual assaults against men within the military have been consistently down, however, the “sexual assault of women service members remains a persistent challenge across the military services.”
The drafters of the DoD report, like McCarthy, call on the leaders and commanders to be more in tune with what is happening in their units.
They wrote in their conclusion, “climate factors around dignity and respect were found to be robustly associated with risk for sexual assault. Commanders must have greater visibility into their unit’s climate, and the tools needed to swiftly address related concerns.”