A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced the “I am Vanessa Guillen Act” on Wednesday.
The legislation was inspired by the Fort Hood soldier who was killed by a fellow soldier in April. Her body wasn't found for months.
Guillen's family believes her murder was tied to sexual harassment allegations she made, prior to her disappearance.
Houston Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, explained that the “‘I am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020’ is a transformative piece of legislation that has saved lives and help keep our women and men of the Armed Services safe.”
The bill, among other measures and reforms, would create a confidential reporting system for sexual harassment in the military.
Texas Republican Pete Olson also sponsored the bill. “Let’s get this passed in Congress," he said. "As we say in Houston, 'failure is not an option.'”
In a statement, Don Christensen, a former Air Force prosecutor and president of Protect Our Defenders, a group dedicated to ending rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military, celebrated the legislation's passage.
“The Pentagon deliberately misled Congress to stop fundamental reform seven years ago," he wrote. "Ever since then it’s been empty promises and inaction, as our military loses its best and brightest and more families suffer unnecessarily. We need real reform that lasts long after the national spotlight fades. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act is long overdue."
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, explained in a statement Wednesday that the bill would come to the House floor for a vote soon.
“Justice is needed for Vanessa, and for the many servicemembers facing an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in our armed forces, too often in the shadows," she said. "Congress will not stop until we have finally, fully ended this epidemic – in the military, in the workplace, and in all places.”
The entire House was expected to consider the bill in the coming weeks.
Guillen was killed by a fellow soldier on April 22 during her time at Fort Hood. She was missing for about two months before her mutilated body was found near the base.
Guillen’s family said the man who killed her had sexually harassed her in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. But Army officials maintained they found no evidence of that.
Guillen’s death sparked a #MeToo movement throughout the military. Veterans and active duty soldiers have used #IAmVanessaGuillen to share accounts of being raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed in the military, adding that their attackers have seen few, if any, repercussions.
Sascha Cordner, Carson Frame and Jolene Almendarez contributed to this report.
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