Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén complained of sexual harassment before her murder, authorities report
U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén was just 20 years old when she was bludgeoned to death on April 22, 2020 at Fort Hood in Texas, the U.S. military’s largest active-duty base.
Spc. Guillén had dreamed of a career in the military, a field historically dominated by men, ever since she was a little girl. Less than two years following high school graduation, the Houston native was being sexually harassed by a man in a position of authority over her in the Army, and then horrifically murdered by another man, a colleague.
Authorities say that Spc. Guillén was contacted by her killer, a fellow soldier, via text message and asked to deliver paperwork concerning equipment that needed to be serviced. She was never seen alive again.
Following a search, Spc. Guillen's mutilated body was found weeks later buried in a box in a shallow grave not far from her barracks. Investigators advise that Spc. Guillen's murderer, also aged 20, fled Fort Hood and then took his own life when confronted by law enforcement.
U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén
It has now been revealed that prior to her death, Spc. Guillén complained to her sisters and to fellow soldiers that she was being sexually harassed by a superior, and that she was fearful about reporting the harassment because of possible retaliation.
While investigators have determined posthumously she had indeed been “sexually harassed by a superior noncommissioned officer in her unit,” the Army has elected to not name the individual responsible for harassing Spc. Guillén. It is unknown what discipline, if any, Spc. Guillén's harasser received.
Sadly, many complaints of harassment go unreported due to fears of retribution, particularly when as here a higher-up is responsible for the illegal behavior.
For this and other reasons, the WVPI strongly recommends the implementation of internal anti-retaliation policies (1) guaranteeing that retribution for complaining about harassment and other forms of illegal workplace conduct will not be tolerated and stating within those polices that anyone who engages in retaliation will be disciplined; (2) clearly advising where complaining parties should report their concerns to. Do not assume people know, even if it is published elsewhere such as in an employee handbook.
Then be sure to distribute, then redistribute the policy again. Discuss it openly and frequently.
Ms. Guillén graduated from César E. Chavez High School in 2018.
An official Army investigation following Spc. Guillén's death exposed a pattern and practice of violence and abuse against soldiers at Fort Hood. It also led to protests over the manner in which the military addresses complaints of sexual harassment, suicide and other noncombat deaths.
Earlier this month, the Army announced a series of initiatives designed to implement the recommendations of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC). This task force was assembled following Spc. Guillén's murder. The FHIRC was tasked with examining the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and thereafter made a series of recommendations to effect change.
The FHIRC's recommendations will be implemented at not just Fort Hood, but across the entire U.S. Army itself. To learn more about the Army's new programming go here:
NOTE: If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 800-656-4673 for confidential assistance.
Please watch the following brief video on the federal law barring sexual harassment and steps to take if you or someone you know is being harassed at work.