House lawmakers unveil ‘I Am Vanessa Guillen’ bill to reform military’s sexual misconduct policies

Washington

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Just months after Vanessa Guillen was murdered by a fellow soldier, her family introduced a bill Wednesday alongside members of Congress 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 at Fort Hood in Texas and was afraid to report it. She disappeared in April and was missing for months before her remains were found.

“She is now an American hero that will save lots of lives,” said her older sister, Mayra Guillen. “Military members, both men and women, deserve to have equal rights if not more than us because they sign their lives to protect us.”

The “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act” would allow members of the military to report sexual harassment to a third party, make it a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and move prosecution decisions of sexual assault and harassment cases out of the chain of command.

Reps. Jackie Speier, D-CA, and Markwayne Mullin, R-OK, are leading the bipartisan charge.

“This is the military’s Me Too moment, and we are going to take full advantage to amplify it and to cause the kinds of changes that we believe should take place,” Speier said.

“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,” Mullin 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 the House, but Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-TX, urged the Senate to act as well, not only for Guillen but for the thousands of military service members who have come forward as victims since her murder using #IAmVanessaGuillen.

“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 to travel to Fort Hood Thursday to tour the sites where the remains of Guillen and other service members have been found.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.

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