Things That Matter

Vanessa Guillen’s Family To Meet With Trump And Introduce Bill To Protect Military Personnel Reporting Sexual Harassment

Vanessa Guillen’s family participated in a live video with mitú. You can check it out below.

Update July 14, 2020: Pfc Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance and death have shocked the American people. The young woman was a soldier at Fort Hood when she tried to report sexual harassment attacks against her. The Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam is now pushing for a new bill to be passed to help other women in the military.

Vanessa Guillen’s family are preparing to meet with President Donald Trump, file the #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN bill, and protest at the same time.

After Guillen’s remains were found following a search for the missing woman, the family got to work fighting to protect her legacy. Part of that is with the #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN bill.

The bill, which the Guillen family attorney is hopeful about, will empower people in the military to seek justice for sexual harassment and assault. As it stands now, the way people report sexual harassment and assault starts with reporting it to the command chain. Advocates against sexual assault criticize this policy because it allows for the military to hide the allegations.

The #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN bill would allow military personnel to report these attacks to third parties. People, like Guillen, would no longer need to fear speaking up and facing retaliation. Instead, they would be free to contact law enforcement and have an investigation led by non-military personnel.

The family will be meeting President Trump, introducing the bill, and protesting in honor of Guillen from July 29-30.

Update: Human remains were found near Fort Hood Tuesday, according to several reports. The remains were found near Leon River in Bell County, Texas, and are likely Vanessa Guillen, according to family. Guillen was last seen on April 22 on the base and people have been searching for the missing soldier since.

Human remains have been found near Leon River during the search for Vanessa Guillen.

Human remains have been discovered in a shallow grave near Fort Hood, where Guillen was last seen. In response, Tim Miller, the founder and director of Texas EquuSearch, called off the search. The remains haven’t been positively identified as Vaness Guillen.

“If this can happen to my sister, it can happen to anyone else,” Vanessa’s sister Lupe said at a press conference. “My sister’s no joke. My sister’s a human being. I want justice and I want answers because my sister did not do this to herself.”

The remains were found 26 miles away from the location where the body of Gregory Wedel-Morales’s body was found. Morales went missing in August 2019 and the Army deemed him a deserter. However, the family is fighting for Morales to have a full military burial because he was not a deserter.

Update: Vanessa Guillen’s disappeared in April and there are still no answers. Investigations into her disappearance have not turned up anything but foul-play is suspected. Here is what we know so far about the case.

Vanessa Guillen has been missing since April 22.

The soldier was last seen on April 22 in a parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, at the Fort Hood military base. Guillen was wearing a black shirt, light purple leggings, and black Nike shoes. The personnel of Fort Hood have conducted several detailed searches on the base but have not found Guillen. It has been two months and there is still no answer.

Before going missing, Guillen did confide in her family about the sexual harassment she was experiencing.

Natalie Khawam, the Guillen family’s attorney, said that Guillen was afraid to report the sexual harassment she was dealing with on the base. According to Khawam, Guillen experienced two moments of sexual harassment from a superior. Once when she was showering and he walked in and the other time was a verbal attack with inappropriate language. These allegations are being investigated now.

Guillen’s case is gaining more publicity and the public demands justice for the young woman.

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CBS News has reported that Guillen’s mother has demanded an investigation from the beginning but nothing happened. According to the mother, she asked Fort Hood officials to begin an intense search for her daughter when she went missing.

“They took too long to look for my daughter because I begged from the start for them to close the base and put their over 30,000 soldiers to look for my daughter and they didn’t do it,” she said in Spanish, according to CBS News. “Why put on a show now to say you’ve looked for a my daughter? Why now? I demand justice and I demand their respect and for my daughter as a a soldier.” 

Public pressure keeps growing with calls for justice for Vanessa Guillen.

The allegations of sexual harassment in the military are bringing up a past sentiment. The military first faced scrutiny for rampant sexual assault and harassment that came to light in the early 2010s. Women came forward sharing their stories and the nation paid attention.

Guillen’s case is putting the spotlight back on the military and sexual misconduct on bases. The lack of information after two months of pleas from the family to investigate hasn’t turned up any leads. People are demanding answers and justice.

Fort Hood officials are asking for anyone with information about Guillen to call (254) 495-7767. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information as well.

READ: NBC Says It Will Release The NDAs That Sexual Harassment Survivors Were Forced To Sign

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A Latina Firefighter in Boston Says the Department Retaliated Against Her When She Reported That She Was Sexually Assaulted by a Colleague

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A Latina Firefighter in Boston Says the Department Retaliated Against Her When She Reported That She Was Sexually Assaulted by a Colleague

Credit: Screenshot via CBS/WBZ

A former female firefighter was just given a settlement of $3.2 million by the city of Boston for what she characterized as a culture of sexual harassment, shaming, and silencing. Nathalie Fontanez says she was retaliated against by the Boston Fire Department for reporting a sexual assault she experienced at the hands of a colleague.

In 2018, Fontanez says she was sexually assaulted by fellow firefighter David Sanchez.

It all began when Fontanez joined the Boston Fire Department in 2011. The department was looking to hire fluent Spanish speakers, and Fontanez considered the opportunity a “golden ticket”. It was an opportunity for her, a single mom, to provide for her daughter without the assistance of welfare. And, she could prove to her daughter that women can do anything.

But Fontanez’s dream soon turned into a nightmare. After joining the department, she faced an inordinate amount of hazing and harassment because she was a woman and a Latina.

“I’m not a veteran. I’m not a man. I’m a Latin woman. If there was a totem pole, I was at the very bottom,” she explained. “I felt that I had to tolerate anything that came my way, because I was lucky to be there,” she said.

Per Fontanez, the incidents escalated until the day in question when she was assaulted at the firehouse by Sanchez.

After reporting the incident to her superiors, she says that her colleagues turned on her.

In a recent press conference, Fontanez explained the experience in more detail. “Incidents began to escalate and I was then shamed and labeled a trouble-maker,” she said. “The guys that I once relied on for my life’s safety now turned against me.”

While Sanchez was convicted of assault and battery and sentenced to two years of probation, Fontanez says that she was harassed and isolated by her station mates. According to her, the retaliation also included being denied a promotion and being ignored at social events.

“I was often reminded by some of my colleagues that I had taken a job from a man who could have been providing for his family, even though I was a single parent providing for mine,” she said.

Last month, the city settled with Fontanez for $3.2 million. But Fontanez says it’s not about the money–it’s about changing the toxic culture of firehouses. 

“I’m breaking my silence because I believe that women firefighters deserve equal treatment in the Boston Fire Department,” Fontanez said during the news conference. “However, at this point that is the dream, but not the reality, for many women firefighters. The department is overdue for change, and the time for change is now.”

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Women Share The Moments They Regreted Staying Silent In Uncomfortable Situations

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Women Share The Moments They Regreted Staying Silent In Uncomfortable Situations

Ponomariova_Maria /Getty

Sexual harassment and assault of women is rampant across every country, culture, workplace, and industry. Sadly, it’s common for women to have to endure harassment and for comfort sake’s or a desire to remain safe, stay quiet. Recently, women on Twitter shared what it’s like to have to be quiet in uncomfortable situations they realize are harmful or unsafe.

 *Trigger Warning: the stories in this piece deal with sexual harassment and assault.*

They’re also sharing their personal, horrifying stories.

Check them out below.

“This is a terrible feeling. A couple years ago I went into a neurologist’s office for an EEG, which involved attaching dozens of electrodes to my scalp. The tech who was attaching them told me how silky my hair was. Began asking me questions about whether I was single, if I ever planned to have kids. Later, he asked me my weight. Told me I was too thin (I had a BMI of 22-23) and that men liked women with more weight on them. I was 33 years old, and for the first time in my life—after growing up in a highly abusive, silencing household—I spoke up. Told him how unprofessional he was being, and that I would file a complaint. He said, ‘Do what you need to do.’ And then I did. I filed that goddamn complaint with shaking hands. It felt awful and uncomfortable and I have no regrets about doing it. I hope it made a difference.” –ennovahs

“This is the worst part of being a victim. The urge to make it go away, you want to believe if you move on, you can’t be upset by it. But it doesn’t work like that, it just hits the snooze button. Enough shitty moments like that and your jenga tower comes down and you turn into a salty bitter person that loses faith in humanity and it’s so much harder to heal from later than if you do something and process it now, enforce your boundaries now. It also like, primes you to let it happen again the next time. You let this one slide, and then someone else does something else inappropriate later and it’s like “where do I draw the line? I didn’t say something that other time”. And then when you finally reach the limit, all the other times you let people violate your boundaries without saying something haunt you and you can’t tell if it’s your fault or theirs Take care of yourself by honoring and enforcing your own boundaries. Don’t create additional pain you’ll have to heal from later with your own self-betrayal. You are worth the effort it takes to file a report, even when it’s exhausting. Is there a way you could offer to help her file? Like figuring out how to do it and helping her fill it out? If she says no, that’s her right. But I feel like so often we get betrayed twice, once by others and once by ourselves.” –valicat

“I got felt up by my masseuse and then he asked for my phone number. I just froze said I have a boyfriend and went to pay. Later I was telling my friend about it in a haha can you believe that happened and my friend looked at me all serious and said, so you were sexually assaulted, tipped him for it then want to laugh about it. I started crying and then went through the hell of having to report him and getting his license revoked.” –pulchritudinousss

“We should complain, though. For our sisters. My company offered an in-house massage therapist. Nothing like saving up coffee breaks for a proper massage! But he was … personal without being sleezy, like, “Nice breasts for a woman your age” said in a neutral tone of voice. He also liked to be rough when massaging. I like a hard massage, but the other stuff wasn’t right. When he offered to give me massages as his private office (elsewhere in town), my gut instinct kicked in and I said no, and I also stopped seeing him at work. A month later, he was gone. Somebody else had complained. I was disappointed in myself for not speaking up. I hadn’t overreacted about him and it wasn’t just me.”-ThinkbigShrinktofit

“As a woman who kept quiet when people did or said things to me that made me uncomfortable until I was in my 40s (all in the name of avoiding confrontation, not upsetting the other person, wanting to be liked, etc.), it took one really bad experience to finally realize that enough was enough. People are going to be shitty and there isn’t anything I can do that will change how shitty of a person they are. But, I can actually start telling them how unacceptable their behavior is and if it continues to happen, remove them from my life. It’s been rough, trying to speak up when warranted. Sometimes, I come off as pretty harsh. But, people are starting to realize that I’m not going to allow that type of behavior anymore. It has cost me some ‘friendships’ but my life is actually much better off without them in it.” –idreamofgin

“Speaking from experience, I can understand your friend not wanting to do anything. I was getting a physical for the military. The last person I see is this old guy. We are told to strip down to our underwear. This guy is asking all these medical questions, poking and touching. Turn your head and cough stuff. I can’t remember how, but at some point he called me cutie. I later said something to the military person running the facility and it turned into an investigation into me. After being repeatedly told my entry would be delayed, but if I withdrew my “comment” I could ship for basic training. My experience is nothing compared with what a lot of what women go through in similar situations. Every time I hear of a rape, I think about how much more horrible it would be. Any woman that comes forward and presses charges is braver than I ever could be.” –Barbuckles

“Went to take my husband to work and the man at the check station pointed out my tongue ring and made vaguely sexual statements about it like how I ‘must be fun.’ Insanely inappropriate. I was a little bitch so I cried when I got home. I did report him but he still worked there through the season.”-hattallb1tch

Uncomfortable Situations
Five women of different nationalities and cultures standing together. Friendship poster, the union of feminists or sisterhood. The concept of gender equality and of the female empowerment movement.

“I had a similar experience. I’d been having intense lower abdominal/pelvis pains and went to get an ultrasound because my doctor was concerned. Went to the place and the guy was being super rough with the thing, and it hurt. I let out a gasp of pain because it had been painful even without someone mashing an ultrasound thingy right in the painful spot, like it felt like someone just stabbed me; and he just laughed and said ‘Don’t get so excited, I haven’t gone that low down yet.’ and winked. Turned my stomach. Like, okay I am no longer comfortable being in a room alone with you, with your hands at hip level. But he seemed so comfortable making such an inappropriate joke that it’s like… this shithead probably gets away with doing it all the time. My boyfriend was furious and just couldn’t understand why I was apathetic about it. It’s something you get used to. Those casual threatening sexual jokes.”- cinnamonbrook

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