FORT HOOD, Texas — On the second-year anniversary of Spc. Vanessa Guillen's death, Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced a bi-partisan bill aimed at removing sexual harassment from the military's chain-of-command.
In a news release, Speier explained how the Sexual Harassment Independent Investigations and Prosecutions Act, or SHIIP, will help fix a "massive oversight" in the recently approved National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) -- which included provisions of the "I Am Vanessa Guillen Act."
Speier explained that thanks to the NDAA that was signed by President Joe Biden earlier this year, cases of sexual assault, murder, kidnapping and other serious crimes were removed from the chain of command. She also said it included the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which makes sexual harassment a standalone offense.
"Shockingly, however, [SHIIP] was not included in the jurisdiction of the independent military prosecutors. Our bill fixes that massive oversight," she said.
Prior to Guillen's death, she told her family she was sexually harassed by a superior in her unit, but didn't report it in fear of retaliation, her family said.
Leaders in her regiment learned of the superior's comments, as well as knew of the hostile and intimidating environment they made for her, but they failed to take appropriate action and hold the superior accountable, a 15-6 investigation revealed last year.
"Many other victims of sexual assault and violent crimes in the military have shared with me how they also suffered from sexual harassment," Speier said. "As long as sexual harassment courts-martial continue to be handled through the military chain of command, victim’s voices will be stifled and overwhelmed by a system stacked against them at every turn.”
If passed, the SHIIP Act, which is supported by Guillen's family, will extend protections against sexual harassment in the military in the NDAA. More specifically, it would:
- Move prosecutorial decisions regarding sexual harassment from commanders to a new special trial counsel that's created by the NDAA. This will help independent military attorneys decide which sex-related offenses go to court-martial
- Require that the independent sexual harassment investigators be outside the chain of command of the victim and person accused, as well as make sure they are properly trained in investigating sexual harassment
Guillen was killed April 22, 2020 on post by Spc. Aaron Robinson, according to a FBI criminal complaint. Robinson, with the help of his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar, dismembered Guillen's body and buried the remains near the Leon River in Bell County, the complaint alleges.
Guillen's remains were found June 30. Robinson shot and killed himself on the morning of July 1, per police.
Last July, a grand jury indicted Aguilar with 11 counts, including charges of tampering with documents or proceedings and conspiracy to tamper with documents or proceedings for her role in Guillen's death and disappearance in April 2020.
Her trial date is still pending.
Watch 6 News' coverage on Vanessa Guillen: