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New Documentary Following Vanessa Guillen’s Family’s Search for Justice: “The People Will No Longer Be Silent”

It was the sad story of Specialist Vanessa Guillen that inspired Staff Sgt. Casey Suchanek to go public with allegations of sexual assault by another member of the Air National Guard.

“When it happened to me, that was the first thing that came to my mind,” Suchanek told CBS News. “I understood on a deep level the pain she went through.”

Guillen’s disappearance and murder in 2020 Started a movement in which thousands of service members who experienced sexual trauma in the military shared their experiences on social media #IAmVanessaGuillen Hashtags.

It’s also the title of a new Netflix documentary that delves deeper into the Guillén family’s search for justice and an effort to reform the way the military handles sexual assault cases. As of Friday morning, “I Am Vanessa Guillén” was one of the top headline searches in the US

Guillén’s family knew something was wrong on April 22, 2020, when they could not get in touch with Vanessa, who was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Finally, after two months, he body was discovered, Authorities said he was killed by fellow specialist Aaron Robinson, who fled the base and later committed suicide. Another suspect, the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, was also arrested.

In the documentary, Guillens and some close friends talk about how Vanessa told them she was sexually assaulted by her superior at Fort Hood.

Vanessa’s oldest sister, Myra Guillen, told CBS News that before her sister joined the military, she didn’t know the military had history of problems with sexual assault and harassment. But after her sister’s disappearance and murder, she began reading women’s stories using the #IAmVanessaGuillen hashtag and realized the seriousness of the issue.

Vanessa Guillen
A mural by Vanessa Guillen in Austin on July 6, 2020.

Sergio Flores / Getty


“Once we found out what was going on with Vanessa, it all slowly began to open up. We kept reading more and more, reading some of the stories already so sad, the way the victims Gone, that’s fine, you would think that… you’re going to be in the military. They’re supposed to be decent, supposed to be respected people, let alone within the ranks, are monsters,” Myra Guillén told CBS News. .


Vanessa Guillen’s sisters respond to Fort Hood investigation

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In April 2021, the US military issued a report Officials at Fort Hood in Texas said that Guillén’s sexual assault complaints were ignored. Twenty-one soldiers were relieved of duty or reprimanded as a result of the investigation.

Guillen Family filed a lawsuit In August, it sought $35 million in damages from the US government on the grounds of sexual harassment, assault, assault, rape, sodomy and wrongful death.

The Netflix documentary was released on Thursday and is being streamed in more than 100 countries. Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing the family, said filming lasted more than two years and covered the family’s everyday life after Vanessa’s death and Capitol Hill’s efforts to push the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act into law. Documented his frequent travels.

Khwam said, “It takes us through our lives over the past three years, actually three immigrant women doing this in their own way. Without the resources that people usually have, without the experience.” We didn’t have funding organizations.” CBS News. “We weren’t just a team; we were a family trying to make it happen.”

Myra Guillén serves as the President and Founder of the I Am Vanessa Guillén Foundation. Throughout the documentary, she is seen meeting with various political leaders as she deals with the grief of losing her sister.

“It’s going to be the hard part when your emotions come into play,” she told CBS News. “Grief has strange ways of working but knowing that you still have to accomplish, I knew deep down inside I had to accomplish what we came for and I couldn’t let my emotions get the better of me.”

with the support of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other lawmakers, portions of the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act became law in December 2021 with the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“There were so many ups and downs. There was a lot of adversity that we faced… just looking back and I’m so glad we didn’t give up, I’m so glad we stuck to our guns and focused on the mission Khwaam said.

But the mission continues for both the Guillén family and Khawam as they work to pass the Sexual Assault Independent Investigation and Prosecution (SHIIP) Act into law and continue to support victims of military sexual trauma and assault.

With her experience and newfound knowledge in policy-making, Myra Guillén is exploring the idea of ​​running for Congress in the future.

“I take comfort in the fact that people will no longer be silent,” she said. “They’re ready to speak out, they’re ready to fight, they’re ready to advocate, they’re ready to come forward and say ‘enough is enough.’ This is a better outcome than silencing, abusing or retaliating against victims.”

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