WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-05) released the following statement in response to the publication of a report detailing the facts of Vanessa Guillén’s murder at Fort Hood, Texas, and her Command’s involvement and response. Guillén’s killing last April and her family’s allegations that she feared reporting sexual harassment in her unit sparked nationwide calls for systemic change in how military sexual assault crimes are investigated. Tragically, Vanessa’s murder was followed by the death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, a Massachusetts servicemember who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted at Fort Hood. In September 2020, after traveling to Texas to visit Fort Hood, Assistant Speaker Clark joined Reps. Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) in introducing the “I am Vanessa Guillén Act” that would make sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and move prosecution decisions of sexual assault and harassment cases out of the chain of command.   

“Last year, the deaths of Spc. Vanessa Guillén and Sgt. Elder Fernandes at Fort Hood brought into stark relief the ongoing tragedy of sexual harassment and assault in our military. In September, I traveled to Fort Hood to walk in Vanessa’s final footsteps and speak to servicemembers about their own experiences with sexual assault and harassment in the military. It was clear then, and even clearer now, that the toxic culture of fear, intimidation, harassment, and indifference toward sexual assault in the military must be transformed,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “Today, we have answers about the failures that led to Vanessa’s death — failures that include Army leaders repeatedly refusing to believe the servicemember they were meant to protect. While this is an important step toward accountability in this case, what we don’t have is a system that will prevent it from happening again. We must change the culture within the military, and that means instituting accountability through our laws. We must pass the ‘I am Vanessa Guillén Act.’” 

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