Family of slain Texas soldier seek $35 million in damages


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 demanded.

The family of 20-year-old Vanessa Guillen is seeking compensation for sexual harassment, abuse, assault, rape, bestiality and wrongful death.

The young woman’s death sparked a social media movement with the hashtag #IAmVaessaGuillen.
AP/Carolyn Kaster

An investigation by military officials into the death of Guillen, who was killed by a comrade at the US Army base at Fort Hood, found that she was also the subject of sexual harassment and that leaders failed to take adequate action. The lawsuit details two instances where Guillen was molested during her time as a soldier and Guillen’s suicidal thoughts as a result of coping with the molestation, which she told her family she was not reported for fear of retaliation.

“This will be an opportunity for every victim to not only feel that they have a voice, but that they can have a chance to heal,” said Natalie Khawam, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Guillen family.

The lawsuit follows a Thursday decision by a three-member panel of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that an Army colonel could file a lawsuit against a former Air Force general alleging sexual assault. The court found that a law preventing soldiers from claiming damages for injuries sustained while on duty did not apply.

Guillen was reported missing in April 2020. Her remains were found in July when the soldier accused of killing Guillen died by suicide after a confrontation with officers. A civilian was charged with 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 military personnel who shared their own experiences in the military using the hashtag #IAmVaessaGuillen. State and federal legislatures have since passed legislation honoring Guillen, stripping commanders of some powers and giving survivors more reporting opportunities.

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