AUSTIN, Texas — The family of a Texas soldier who was sexually harassed and killed at a military base near Killeen in 2020 filed a lawsuit Friday seeking $35 million in damages from the U.S. government.
Vanessa Guillen’s family is seeking damages from the government for her abuse, sexual harassment and assault as well as for sodomy, wrongful death, and sodomy.
Guillen died after being attacked and raped by a fellow soldier from the U.S. Army. The lawsuit describes two instances in which Guillen was harassed during her time as a soldier and Guillen’s suicidal thoughts as a result of coping with the harassment, which she told family that she did not report for fear of retaliation.
“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.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. decided Thursday that the lawsuit was valid. Circuit Court of Appeals San Francisco ruled that an Army colonel can sue a former Air Force general over a sexual assault claim. It was found that the law that barred servicemen from seeking damages for injury sustained in service didn’t apply.
Guillen was reported missing in April 2020. After a fight with officers, Guillen was declared missing in April 2020. Her remains were discovered that July. A civilian faced charges for allegedly helping Robinson dispose of Guillen’s remains.
Guillen’s death and claims by her family that she was harassed and assaulted 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 #IAmVaessaGuillen. Federal and state legislators have passed legislation to honor Guillen. This law removed certain authority from commanders, and allowed survivors more choices.
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