The missing of Private First-Class Vanessa Guillen started a movement by the women in the military who are sharing their stories of sexual harassment while on duty. They are using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.
Guillen, 20, went missing on April 22. She was last seen at the Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen, Texas, after she told her family how she felt unsafe on the job because she was sexually harassed by a sergeant.
Volunteers who went searching for Guillen found remains and some of her belongings. They asked from the military to order an investigation regarding Guillen’s allegations, which the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander did.
Women in the military know that they can’t be silenced any longer. They have to raise their voice and tell their story because of Guillen, themselves, and all the girls who ever dream of serving the country.
The testimonies come from current members as well as veterans and their words are chilling. The truth is being revealed and things have to change.
Army veteran Maira Carrier is just one of the numerous women who were sexually harassed. Upon Guillen’s story, she took to Facebook to share her own experience, writing, “I came in the Army when I was 17 years old. I was a victim of sexual assault and harassment as a child and I thought that the Army was my ticket out of that life, but instead I came into an even more painful world. Right before getting on the bus for basic training the airport reception NCO kept me back in the airport as the others went to the training center. He took me to a corner to avoid being seen, then proceeded to hit on me and grab the inside of my leg. I said I was 17 on multiple occasions,’ she recalls. “He gave me his personal cell phone number, the reception number to contact him, his emails (work and personal), and explained to me that he could help me have fun when I get to advanced individual training. I turned all his information to my DS, who said they were going to take care of it. Later in my career I looked up this individual and he had been promoted twice. It was as if my complaint made no impact in his career,” Carrier finishes her story.
The hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen triggered the truth that has been put under the rug to finally come to light. These brave women feel like they owe it to Guillen and are standing for her because she can no longer fight for herself.
The sad reality is that many still feel scared and ashamed to confess the assaults. We hope things will change and no women will ever have to be assaulted and harassed in any way.