Breaking News
More () »

#IAmVanessaGuillen | Hashtag raises awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military

The hashtag comes as the search for Vanessa Guillen continues. Her family claims she was sexually harassed before she disappeared.

#IAmVanessaGuillen is a simple hashtag that works to bring awareness to what one woman calls, a systemic problem in the United States Military. 

"We sign up to be held up to a higher standard and to fight for our flag. Not to be harassed, bullied, hazed, molested, raped, assaulted or anything like that," said a woman who asked to remain anonymous due to pending investigation through the Veteran's Affairs Office. 

The hashtag came from missing Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillen's case. Her family claimed she was sexually harassed on post before she disappeared on April 22. Her case started a bigger conversation online about sexual harassment and assault in the military. 

Macee King served in the Army for four years. She joined the military after high school. She faced sexual assault and harassment, while serving. 

"Three incidences in Korea and then, I guess you can say, one incident in Fort Bragg, but it was with the same person, just different situations and different times," King said.

King said one of the incidents was inappropriate touching. She said she tried to report it to her 1st SGT. and Commander. 

"My 1st Sgt., I'll never forget it. He said, 'you know sometimes people they say things about other people because they're mad and they want to get them in trouble,'" King said.

King said two of the incidents happened in her room. She eventually went to Fort Bragg where she later reported the three incidents privately. She said she did not want them to investigate or do anything further, but let it be known that it did happen and have the Army aware. 

"At that time, I really just wanted it to be over with, I felt so much a sense of relief just by reporting and tell her about it," King said. 

King said things happened at Fort Bragg. She said one man would yank her hair and call her names. She said she mentioned it to her NCO the first time. 

"He just said 'maybe he likes you' and I said, I mean, I'm married," King said.

She said it continued, comments and shoving and said it escalated when she was pregnant. 

"I mentioned it to my NCO one more time. I said 'you know he is still doing it and I'm eight months pregnant, you know, he pushed me. I almost fell on my stomach' and he was just like you know boys will be boys he just has a crush on you," King said. 

King medically retired.

Angela Chavira served in the Air Force for two years. She joined after high school. Her assault happened in 2000. She was 18.

"When I got to my first duty station I was only there probably three, four months and I was asleep in my door room and I was sexually assaulted by a higher ranking person," Chavira said.

She said she reported the assault, an investigation launched, she said the man was given an Article 15 and lost a stripe.

Chavira claimed the man told others she was trying to ruin his career.

"By him telling others that, I was constantly harassed. I was called names. They would come all hours of the night, knocking on my door and it got to the point that I felt like I didn't have anybody and I tried to end my life," Chavira said. 

Chavira was given a medical discharge.

Both Chavira and King decided to share their story with the hashtag.

"To let them know this does happen. It does get pushed under the rug and nobody wants to know about it and nobody wants anybody else to know about it," King said. 

Also, continue the larger conversation. 

"I feel like if we want to change, we have to be the change and if I don't speak up nobody is going to be aware of it and nothing is going to change," Chavira said.

6 News also spoke with two other women who shared their stories with the hashtag. 

Maria Rincon served in the army for three years. She found out about Vanessa's case through Facebook. 

"I was reading it and I was like I am Vanessa Guillen too," Rincon said. 

She said it happened in June of 1994 when she was only 21. 

"He was an Infantry Sgt. and he had a group of people who were watching the door to make sure that nobody, you know, was coming in and know what he was doing. He made sure that he left a lot of marks on my neck. He didn't even try to cover what happened because they cover for each other," Rincon said. 

Rincon said the man was much bigger than her. She said no and stop, but said it did not matter. She said she told her doctor and said they asked questions about what she wore, what she was doing and if was she drinking. 

"They make you feel like you were asking for it, like you put yourself in that position, and it's not correct," Rincon said. 

The woman who chose to remain anonymous due to pending investigation through the Veteran's Affairs Office shared her story with the hashtag. She was 18 and in the Coast Guard. She said it started with comments from higher-ranking male officials. 

"Then it progressed from there to brushing up against me in my berthing or pushing me into their berthing and it progressed from there. A couple months later to just full-blown molestation at that point," The woman said. 

She said she developed depression, did not want to be in the military anymore and said she did not want to live anymore.

She said she went to someone a couple of ranks above her.

"He went to my higher ranking command and they came back at me and said you know, you're lying. You don't have depression. You don't want to kill yourself. You are overreacting," The woman said. 

She told other women and they tried to get their junior officers involved. She said it did not go anywhere. Her depression worsened. She said she was getting out of the military one way or another, so she went AWOL.

She said she ran away for 5 days. Later on, she said after discussion among a number of officials, she got a general discharge under honorable conditions. 

Both Rincon and the anonymous woman said this is not what the military is about.

"This is not what we sign up for when we put our hand up and say that we're going to serve this country," The woman said. 

Both said it is time to speak up. 

"My case happened in 1994 and sadly, it's happening right now. Right now in 2020," Ricon said. 

RELATED: Tip leads to search for Vanessa Guillen near Leon River, officials say

RELATED: Family, supporters continue to rally to find missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen

RELATED: Update | The search for Missing Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillen continues

Before You Leave, Check This Out