Statement on the death of Vanessa Guillén

The murder of Private First Class Vanessa Guillén is a terrible and preventable tragedy. Esperanza United (formerly Casa de Esperanza) condemns the violence against her, the military’s refusal to seriously address sexual harassment and sexual assault in its ranks, and the broader culture that too often treats Latina bodies as expendable.

We express our deep condolences to the Guillén family. We stand with them and the League of United Latin American Citizens; Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel; and others, in calling for a full investigation of the disappearance and murder of PFC Guillén and the role played by individuals associated with Fort Hood Texas Army Base. Additionally, we are concerned about how sexual assault and domestic violence are addressed within military institutions more generally and call for a mandated third-party system to report, investigate, and prosecute sexual harassment and assault in the military.

Sadly, cases like Vanessa Guillén’s are all too common. There were 6,236 sexual assaults recorded in the military last year, a three percent rise from 2018 figures, the Defense Department said in an April report. From our work in the Twin Cities area and across the country, we know that many people who experience sexual harassment and sexual assault are not sufficiently supported by institutions and systems, and that they often fear retaliation and further harm when they reach out for help. We wish to remind everyone that there are resources to help those who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence and for family and friends who are concerned and want to support them:

Esperanza United stands with the survivors who are bravely posting their stories under the #IAmVanessaGuillen hashtag. We must respond to their outpourings with real and lasting change.