Hundreds of female military members are lighting up social media with disturbing stories of being raped and assaulted, accounts they made public in support of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen, who vanished from Fort Hood after telling family and friends she was being sexually harassed by a superior.
“In 2006 I was brutally raped by a member of the United States Coast Guard. I was locked up in a closet for reporting the rape. I was blamed, shamed, and eventually lost my career. Help find #VanessaGuillen and prosecute all involved in this cover-up,” wrote a woman on Twitter. Hers was one of many stories shared with the “I Am Vanessa Guillen” hashtag, #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN.
Another wrote she was 18 and on her first military job when the trouble started.
“It happened in my own apartment by my superiors twice. I reported it and I was shamed for it. I had to give a class on how I could do better so my male counter parts do not sexually assault/harass me or others. I was eventually pushed out of the army,” wrote a Texas woman,
A female sailor posted, “This is not a new thing, but it’s been silenced for so long. I was raped while on a Navy ship in the middle of the ocean. If I had reported it I was told they would throw me overboard and my body would never be found. That was 30 years ago. #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN.”
Guillen, a 20-year-old private first class, vanished April 22 from the parking lot of her job on Fort Hood. Her keys, wallet and ID were found in the armory, where she repaired artillery.
Her family and friends have organized protests outside the Texas base, demanding more be done in the two-month-old search to find the woman. They have criticized military investigators as being slow to respond and of keeping information from them about Guillen’s disappearance.
The young woman had appeared disconsolate before she vanished, and had spoken of at least one superior, a sergeant, who stalked her when she jogged on the base, and had followed her into the showers while she was naked, her family said.
“The facts aren’t good. I don’t like them,” said family attorney Natalie Khawam. “There were a few incidents where she had told her colleagues, her friends, her family about being sexually harassed but she was afraid to report it. How does someone disappear on a base that has more protection and safeguards than anyone else on the planet?”
Military investigators have said they doing all they can to find Guillen, and recently opened a separate case into the allegations of sexual harassment.
Her family and their attorney are now headed to Washington, D.C., where they plan to press officials for an independent probe into Guillen’s disappearance.
“Due to the lack of answers, safety, respect, and responsibility in Fort Hood, we are demanding a Congressional Investigation to be done,” said lawyer Khawam. “How can someone be sexually harassed on base, go missing on base and the family has not obtained answers in the last two months?”
A media conference at the nation’s Capitol is scheduled for Thursday, she said.
“Our soldiers deserve to be safe and respected while being on duty, those soldiers are putting their life for the United States, yet the same Army family fails to respect them mentally, physically or sexually,” she said.
Over the weekend, in a strange twist to an already strange series of events, witnesses found remains in a Killeen field, within walking distance of where the body of missing Fort Hood Private Gregory Wedel-Morales was discovered June 19. He disappeared last year, and was last seen driving his personal car off base in Killeen.
The unidentified remains found Saturday were sent to a Dallas lab for identification, authorities. Foul play is suspected in his death, as well as in Guillen’s case, military investigators said.
Guillen’s attorney and family encouraged female military members to post their experiences of harassment and assault on Twitter while using the “I Am Vanessa Guillen” hashtag.
On Tuesday, a married, female Navy mechanic in California shared this post, saying she was constantly told she was “too pretty” to do her job.