A year after the murder of 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a new law creating a sexual assault response coordinator position for the Texas Military Department, outside the chain of command, to provide support services to victims while also sending the cases to the Texas Rangers for investigation.
Senate Bill 623, also known as the Vanessa Guillén Act, was signed by Abbott on June 16 and goes into effect on Sept. 1. The bill covers the Texas Military Department, which oversees the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard, and the Texas State Guard.
The Texas bill, filed by State Sen. César Blanco (D-El Paso), comes amid calls for the U.S. military to pass a sexual assault reform bill that would allow military members to report sexual harassment or sexual assault without fear of retaliation, lack of confidentiality, or concern that nothing will be done.
The Houston native’s death ignited a movement to protect those that are sexually harassed or sexually assaulted in the military. A social media outcry began last summer, where some users used the #IAmVanessaGuillen to speak about their harassment experience in the military.
After the bill was signed in Texas, the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act was re-introduced at the U.S. Capitol on June 17. This act would let victims in the military report these harassments to officers outside their chain of command. The act was delayed on April 22 after advocates of the bill wanted to wait until the completion of the investigation.
An Army report released in April showed Guillén had previously been sexually harassed by a supervisor but unit leadership took no action. A total of 21 Army service members were reprimanded for failing to assess the magnitude of Guillén’s disappearance and allowing her suspected killer, Spc. Aaron Robinson, to flee the base and commit suicide.
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Guillén was last seen alive at Fort Hood on April 22, 2020. Her dismembered remains were found near the base two months later.
A Rand Corp study released this month said female soldiers at Army bases in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Kentucky faced a greater risk of sexual assault and harassment than those at other posts, accounting for more than a third of all active-duty Army women sexually assaulted in 2018.
The study, released Friday, looked at Army incidents and found that female soldiers at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, both in Texas, faced the highest risk, particularly those in combat commands or jobs such as field artillery and engineering.