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Bill named after Vanessa Guillen to be reintroduced

The bill intends to reform the way reports of sexual harassment and assault are handled in the military.

Vanessa Guillen mural Photograph: LM Otero/AP

The #IAmVanessaGuillen Act was created with intentions to improve the handling of sexual assault and harassment cases in the military. Per the terms of the bill, prosecution decisions would be made in the Office of the Chief Prosecutor. With help from the Department of Defense’s Catch a Serial Offender Database, those who need to report cases would be able to do so through a more confidential process.

Most importantly, sexual harassment would be deemed a crime worthy of punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

According to Natalie Khawam, the attorney representing Guillen’s family, the bill has the potential to help save “thousands of lives.”

“Unfortunately we will never be able to bring Specialist Vanessa Guillen back to us, which is a great loss to our country, but with this bill, Vanessa did not die in vain,” she penned in a recent tweet. “Our bill will save thousands of lives, improve the military system and increase the low moral currently plaguing our military.”

The Guillen bill was previously introduced to Congress last year, but no votes were casted. This time around, however, California Rep. Jackie Speier and Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin are championing the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she also plans to support it.

Two months after Guillen was reported missing, her body was discovered miles away from Fort Hood where she was last seen. She was allegedly murdered by Fellow Army Specialist Aaron Robinson, who died by suicide when authorities tried to take him into custody. Guillen reportedly complained twice of being a victim of sexual harrassment; it was later revealed that she was harassed at the hands of her supervisor. Both complaints were ignored by officers and soldiers in the Army.

In the wake of her death, personnel were disciplined for ignoring Guillen’s reports, according to CNN. Five people were relieved of their duties, three were reprimanded via letters and eight individuals are waiting to hear from their leadership about their punishment.

Look below to see Khawam’s tweet about the #IAmVanessaGuillen Act.

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