Vanessa Guillén family says ‘nothing has been done’ as vigils, legislation mark 1 year since disappearance

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — One year ago Thursday, Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén disappeared from Fort Hood. She was missing for more than two months before her remains were found along a Bell County river last July.

Guillén’s family has repeatedly said that she was sexually harassed, including a claim that a higher-ranked soldier walked in and watched her showering. Despite this, U.S. Army officials have said they found no evidence of sexual harassment, either by Guillén’s suspected killer or others.

Nevertheless, her family and many lawmakers are still working to get justice.

Guillen’s family cries at D.C. news conference, says ‘nothing has been done’

Vanessa Guillén’s family was in Washington Thursday on the anniversary of her disappearance. They called on Congress to re-file the “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act.”

The proposed federal legislation failed to pass last fall. Its goal is to help military members report sexual abuse or sexual harassment without fear of retaliation from their chain of command.

Guillén’s family said so far not enough has been done to keep what happened to Vanessa Guillén from happening again to another service member.

Their family met again with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, who filed the bill last fall. They called on President Biden to support the legislation. The Guillén family attorney said they tried to meet with Biden and with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but neither were available.

“Be available for this family,” the attorney said.

Vigils planned in cities across the country

The news release highlighting the federal bill also said that candlelight vigils are planned in “every major city around the country” today at 5:30 p.m. CT at local murals of Guillén.

Vigils are definitely planned in Washington and Houston.

A vigil took place in Austin on Thursday evening at the Guillén mural in southeast Austin. The mural also honors Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky about a month before Guillén went missing.

“This was to symbolize a message to the city, community and world that we are in this fight of injustice together, and we seek justice. No justice, no peace,” said Bertha Delgado, activist and CEO of Arte Texas.

  • Vigil held at Vanessa Guillén's mural in southeast Austin one year after her disappearance. (KXAN/Tim Holcomb)
  • Vigil held at Vanessa Guillén's mural in southeast Austin one year after her disappearance. (KXAN/Tim Holcomb)
  • Vigil held at Vanessa Guillén's mural in southeast Austin one year after her disappearance. (KXAN/Tim Holcomb)

Texas lawmakers announce similar bill to help victims of sexual harassment

On Tuesday, members of Guillén’s family were also in Austin. They joined several Texas lawmakers at the Texas Capitol to highlight new statewide legislation.

“With the Vanessa Guillén Act, Texas can lead by example in protecting our Texas military members from sexual assault and ensure swift justice is delivered for victims,” said Texas Sen. César Blanco, D-El Paso, who filed the bill.

The Army also honored and memorialized Guillén Monday at Fort Hood as the military post named a gate in her memory.

The man suspected of murdering Guillén killed himself after fleeing the post as the investigation closed in on him as a suspect. The man’s estranged wife was arrested in connection with Guillen’s disappearance and faces up to 20 years in prison. She’s accused of helping dispose of Guillén’s body.

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