Will Vanessa Guillén's Murder Finally Reform Sexual Assault Reporting In the Military?

Will Vanessa Guillén's Murder Finally Reform Sexual Assault Reporting In the Military?

9/25/2020 3:50:00 PM

Will Vanessa Guillén's Murder Finally Reform Sexual Assault Reporting In the Military?

Former Air Force Academy top official Teresa Beasley takes ELLE.com inside the tragic case—and explains why it's not surprising.

, which provides financial and legal support for victims of sexual assault and retaliation in the workplace. Beasley filed an EEOC complaint against the Air Force Academy alleging that she was subject to a hostile and discriminatory work environment after speaking out against the Academy. On summary judgment, an EEOC administrative judge found in favor of the Air Force Academy and against Beasley. In papers obtained by ELLE.com, Beasley has appealed the EEOC administrative judge’s summary judgment ruling.

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"There's a long, terrible history of sexual harassment in the military, and it's well past time for that to change," TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund Director Sharyn Tejani tells ELLE.com."It's our priority to support survivors of workplace sexual harassment and retaliation, like Teresa, who refuse to be silenced and choose to come forward with their stories to stand up to powerful institutions."

The Academy's 560-page investigation into the office Beasley ledreportedlyfound her program"jeopardized" victim care. But a Department of Defense Inspector General report from 2019 didn't support those findings. Obtained by ELLE.com, the DoD report concluded that,"victim support services were available to cadet-victims at the United States Air Force Academy as required by Department of Defense and Air Force policy."

"They don't just stop at admonishing you, they go after you to destroy you."Though Beasley worked mostly with cadets at the Air Force, she says retaliation is a systemic problem at all academies and branches of the military. At Fort Hood, the central Texas post where Guillén was stationed, Congress is currently investigating whether the deaths of 29 other soldiers this year — at least nine of them under unusual or suspicious circumstances, according to

NPR— were"symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command."The Army is also looking into Fort Hood's handling of sexual harassment allegations made by Guillén's mother and sister after her death. In a press conference, her family said that before she disappeared on April 22, she told fellow soldiers about an incident involving a superior. Guillén's older sister, Mayra, said her sister was worried that coming forward might jeopardize her military career, according to

Army Times.The fact that Guillén didn't file an official complaint doesn't surprise Beasley."If you speak out or report something they don't want to hear, be prepared for your soul to be crushed," she says."They don't just stop at admonishing you, they go after you to destroy you."

Guillén's suspected killer, fellow soldier Specialist Aaron Robinson, died by suicide while being approached by police in June. Authorities have since charged Robinson's girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence for allegedly helping"mutilate and dispose of... Vanessa Guillén," according to

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from the Department Of Justice. Court documents show Aguilar pleaded"not guilty" to charges, and her trial is scheduled to begin in late November. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years.A makeshift memorial for Guillén in Houston, Texas.

MARK FELIXGetty ImagesIn the months since Guillén's death, a new law in her honor could transform how the military handles sexual assault and harassment allegations. The"I Am Vanessa Guillén Act" is a bipartisan bill aimed at creating a more confidential reporting system. The measure would also make sexual harassment within the military a punishable crime and permit sexual harassment or assault survivors to file claims within the DoD for compensation.

“The status quo is unacceptable. We’re not going to tolerate it anymore,” Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee,in a news conference last week. Speier and Rep. Markwayne Mullin introduced the bill, alongside the Guillén family and their attorney, Natalie Khawam.

Nancy Pelosi, who also met with Guillén's family,that there's still"many service members facing an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in our armed forces, too often in the shadows."Rep. Jackie Speier, left, speaking with Guillén’s sister, center, and mother, right.

Tom WilliamsGetty ImagesThere's no simple solution, no one fix for what Beasley describes as a"sexual assault epidemic" in the military. But the"I Am Vanessa Guillén Act" is a good start."We think we've come so far, but we really haven't, those in leadership still do everything in their power to shut victims up," Beasley says."We need to start believing victims and we need to start supporting them instead of perpetuating the myth that victims are lying. By not believing them, we punish them. And people are suffering because of it, people are dying."

Staff WriterRose is a Staff Writer at ELLE.com covering culture, news, and women's issues.This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

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Will Vanessa Guillén's Murder Finally Reform Sexual Assault Reporting In the Military?Former Air Force Academy top official Teresa Beasley takes ELLE.com inside the tragic case—and explains why it's not surprising.

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