WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress joined advocates for women Tuesday to continue the call for changes in the way the military handles sexual abuse and harassment following the death of a soldier investigators believe was killed and dismembered by someone stationed at the same Texas base.
Three congresswomen joined about a dozen other women on Capitol Hill to demand systemic shifts in military culture. Many held signs bearing the name Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were found earlier this month following her disappearance in April from Fort Hood, a U.S. Army base in Texas. Some signs held at a press conference calling for action included the Mexican flag and the hashtag #NiUnaMas, meaning “not one more woman dead,” a rallying cry in Mexico against the murder of women.
Guillen’s family has said she was sexually harassed by the fellow solider suspected of killing her, but the Army has said there is no evidence of that.
“(Vanessa) felt so unsafe that going to them to make any kind of report that she shared with her family and her friends, any kind of report, she knew that she may receive harassment or retaliation,” Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, said during a news conference.
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., said that at least one in four women veterans has been sexually harassed or assaulted, noting that the numbers could be higher.
“That is far, far too many, but I have to say that this statistic alone, it is staggering. It horrifies me,” Brownley said. “And it is a very deep scar in our military’s history that needs to change, and it needs to change now.”
Guillen’s body was found in Bell County, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Fort Hood. Investigators say the 20-year-old was bludgeoned to death.
A criminal complaint released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas identified the soldier suspected in Guillen’s slaying as Aaron David Robinson, of Calumet City, Illinois. Authorities said Robinson, 20, pulled a gun and shot himself as police were trying to make contact with him during the investigation on July 1.
Cecily Aguilar, a 22-year-old civilian from Killeen, Texas, near Fort Hood, has been arrested in connection to Guillen’s death. She is facing three counts of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Robinson enlisted Aguilar to help him dispose of Guillen’s body, according to the complaint.
The Army CID and the League of United Latin American Citizens offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Guillen’s whereabouts.
Army officials recently announced that it will begin a review of the command climate at Fort Hood following calls by members of Congress and community activists.