Protect Our Defenders News Blog


Speier, Gillibrand Call for Investigation Into Disappearance of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen

Office of Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, sent a letter to Acting Department of Defense Inspector General Sean O’Donnell calling for an investigation into the disappearance of Specialist (SPC) Vanessa Guillen.

Speier and Gillibrand raised questions about the Army’s response to Guillen’s disappearance, noting that the Army marshalled significant investigative resources into Guillen’s disappearance only after her family launched a social media campaign calling attention to it. Guillen had shared with her family that she was sexually harassed by a superior non-commissioned officers. It appears that SPC Guillen did not formally report her harassment because she did not trust her leadership to take her report seriously, which fits a broader pattern of the military downplaying the severity of sexual harassment and assault in the ranks. The lawmakers called for a thorough investigation by the DoD inspector general to establish crucial facts about Guillen’s workplace, disappearance, and the Army’s response to both.

For the Guillen family, this is a painful tragedy that defies description. For our women in uniform, this is another lost sister and chilling reminder of why they can never let down their guard, even among their own ranks. For our country, this is a national embarrassment and outrage,” said Congresswoman Speier. “The Guillen family and Congress demand and deserve a full account of what the Army knew, when they knew it, and what could have been done to avoid this tragedy. I also want to thank Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) for her tireless efforts to get all the facts of this case and to ensure that the Guillen family, who live in her district, receive the justice they need and deserve.”

“The disappearance of Specialist Vanessa Guillen raises serious and alarming questions about the Army’s ability to prevent sexual harassment and assault, respond to criminal acts and provide justice for victims and their families,” said Senator Gillibrand. “There must be a full and thorough investigation into Guillen’s disappearance, both to deliver justice and to initiate change in the Army’s approach to sexual assault in the military and the culture that enables it.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.