Home News I Am Vanessa Guillen Act – Legal Reforms to Protect Victims of...

I Am Vanessa Guillen Act – Legal Reforms to Protect Victims of Sexual Assault in the Military

495
0

Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance in October 2001 sparked an international movement to fight sexual assault in the military. Her remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas. After her body was discovered, Cecily Aguilar was arrested and pleaded guilty to her role in the incident. This event prompted the introduction of the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, which provided legal reforms to protect victims of sexual assault in the military.

Cecily Aguilar pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after the fact

The woman who helped her boyfriend kill his girlfriend pleaded guilty to an accessory to murder after the fact. Cecily Ann Aguilar waived her right to trial and accepted a plea deal. She also pleaded guilty to less serious charges in the Vanessa Guillen murder.

Her lawyer Natalie Khawam said her client was “shocked” by the guilty plea. According to the defense, it was the only living suspect in the slaying.

However, the family of Vanessa Guillen said they were taken aback when their daughter’s sister told them of the guilty plea. They also said that they were confused by the court’s decision to let Aguilar off on bail.

The case shook the nation and led to sweeping changes in military sexual assault policy. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on the subject.

Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance sparked a reform movement

Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance sparked a movement for reform in the military. Her case was a defining moment for a nationwide fight for reform.

After her disappearance, her family and advocates launched a national campaign to bring attention to sexual assault in the military. They held candlelight vigils and protests at major Texas cities and the U.S. capitol.

On April 22, 2020, Vanessa disappeared from Fort Hood, a military installation in Texas. Guillen was stationed at the Central Texas Army post. She left her keys behind.

A month after her disappearance, Guillen’s family filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government for sexual harassment and abuse. They also petitioned for congressional intervention.

In August, the family traveled to Washington, D.C. with Attorney Natalie Khawam, who represented them pro bono.

Vanessa’s remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas

Vanessa Guillen was a 20-year-old female soldier who was missing from Fort Hood in Texas on April 22, 2020. After she disappeared, her family called for an investigation and the Army did its best to provide answers. This included offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to her recovery.

A search for the missing woman yielded partial human remains near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas. The Army has confirmed the existence of the remains, but still does not know how they ended up there.

In addition to the discovery of the human remains, investigators found burned remains in a plastic tote. However, DNA testing has not yet confirmed whether the partial human remains are those of Vanessa Guillen.

Sexual harassment was a standalone offense in the military code

In the wake of the tragic murder of Vanessa Guillen, advocates are stepping up to the plate to change how sexual assault is investigated in the military.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier has been a champion of sexual assault reform for over a decade, and she recently introduced a bill that would make sexual harassment a standalone offense in the military code.

A number of lawmakers praised the bill as a historic achievement, but others say it doesn’t go far enough. Specifically, they argue that the DoD could overreach its boundaries by delivering more convictions under the standalone offence of sexual harassment.

Nevertheless, some advocates believe that the bill makes needed changes, and that it will be instrumental in holding military members accountable for misconduct.

They point out that the rates of sexual assault in the military are still alarmingly high.

I Am Vanessa Guillen Act prompted legal reforms to help victims of sexual assault in the military

The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, named after the first female soldier to be sexually harassed in the military, prompted legal reforms to help victims of sexual assault in the military.

The act, which was part of the $770 billion National Defense Authorization Act, makes it easier for military officials to handle sex-related offenses.

Specifically, the Act requires the Department of Defense to maintain records of sexual harassment retaliation claims.

It also provides support for victims and sets up a system to allow accusations of sexual misconduct to go to an independent agency for an investigation.

As far as what the Act actually does, the most prominent change is that sexual harassment will be a standalone crime in the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice.

That means that commanders will no longer be involved in the investigation or prosecution of cases involving sexual assault.