FORT HOOD, Texas — A historic military reform bill, which includes "I Am Vanessa Guillen Act," is now headed to President Biden's desk after it was passed in the Senate Wednesday.
The act, which is part of the National Defense Authorization Act, will allow victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military to allow them to report incidents outside of their chain-of-command. It passed in the U.S. House last week.
On Twitter, Guillen's sister, Mayra Guillen, and Rep. Jackie Speier, who sponsored the NDAA, reacted to the news.
"This is a bittersweet feeling," Mayra Guillen tweeted. "The loss of my sister created the biggest military law change in history."
"I am also far from done in my fight to see more crimes, like sexual harassment -- which so often begets sexual assault and other horrific crimes, taken out of the chain of command as well. We do this in honor and memory of SPC Vanessa Guillén and so many others who came before her," Speier tweeted.
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The Guillen family and their attorney Natalie Khawam have been working with national lawmakers to pass the act in an effort to reform the military justice system by improving how sexual violence incidents are addressed by military officials so soldiers feel confident about coming forward with reports.
In Texas, a similar bill called the Vanessa Guillen Act was signed in June and went into effect in the state Sept. 1. The Texas version of the bill aims to protect state military members who reported sexual assault without fear of retaliation, lack of confidentiality or concern that nothing will be done if they report.
Spc. Guillen was killed on April 22, 2020 in an armory room on Fort Hood by Spc. Aaron Robinson, according to a criminal complaint in the case. Robinson, with the help of his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar, dismembered Guillen's body and burred the remains near the Leon River in Bell County, per the complaint.
Her body was found just over two months later on June 30, 2020. Robinson shot and killed himself the next day as authorities closed in on him to arrest him.
Guillen told her family she was sexually harassed but they said she did not report it for fear of retaliation. An Army 15-6 investigation found that these incidents of sexual harassment weren't related to her murder, however, and that Robinson did not sexually harass her.
Aguilar is charged with tampering with documents or proceedings and conspiracy to tamper with documents or proceedings for her role in Guillen's death and disappearance.
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