The family of a Texas soldier who was ѕᴇхᴜɑʟʟʏ һɑгɑѕѕᴇԀ and ᴋɪʟʟᴇԀ at a military base near Killeen, Texas in 2020 filed a lawsuit Friday seeking $35 million in damages from the U.S. government.
The family of 20-year-old Vanessa Guillen is seeking damages on the basis of ѕᴇхᴜɑʟ һɑгɑѕѕᴍᴇпт, abuse, ɑѕѕɑᴜʟт, гɑρᴇ, ѕᴏԀᴏᴍʏ and wгᴏпɡfᴜʟ Ԁᴇɑтһ.An investigation by military officials into the Ԁᴇɑтһ of Guillen, who was ᴋɪʟʟᴇԀ by a fellow soldier at U.S. Army base Fort Hood, found that she was also ѕᴇхᴜɑʟʟʏ һɑгɑѕѕᴇԀ and that leaders failed to take appropriate action. The lawsuit describes two instances in which Guillen was harassed during her time as a soldier and Guillen’s ѕᴜɪᴄɪԀɑʟ thoughts as a result of coping with the harassment, which she told family that she did not report for fear of гᴇтɑʟɪɑтɪᴏп.
“This will be an opportunity for every victim to feel not only like they have a voice but that they can be made whole,” said Natalie Khawam, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Guillen family, who is Mexican American.
The lawsuit follows a decision Thursday by a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco stating that an Army colonel could proceed with a lawsuit against a former Air Force General over a ѕᴇхᴜɑʟ ɑѕѕɑᴜʟт allegation. The court found that a law baring service members from seeking damages over injuries during service did not apply.
Guillen was declared missing in April 2020. Her remains were found that July, when the soldier accused of ᴋɪʟʟɪпɡ Guillen died by ѕᴜɪᴄɪԀᴇ following a confrontation with officers. A civilian faced charges for allegedly helping Robinson dispose of Guillen’s remains.
Guillen’s death and claims by her family that she was һɑгɑѕѕᴇԀ ɑпԀ ɑѕѕɑᴜʟтᴇԀ at the Texas base sparked a social media movement of former and active service members who came forward about their own experiences in the military with the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen. State and federal lawmakers have since passed legislation in honor of Guillen that removed some authority from commanders and gave survivors more options to report.
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