Landmark bill containing 'I Am Vanessa Guillén Act' poised to become law

click to enlarge Twenty-year-old Private First Class Vanessa Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood on April 22, 2020. - FACEBOOK / FIND VANESSA GUILLEN
Facebook / Find Vanessa Guillen
Twenty-year-old Private First Class Vanessa Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood on April 22, 2020.
Sweeping changes to how the military justice system handles and prosecutes sexual assault and misconduct are set to become law, ignited after Fort Hood Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén was killed last year, Times News Network reports.

The "I Am Vanessa Guillén Act,” included in the National Defense Authorization Act, will allow victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military to report incidents outside of their chain-of-command. The NDAA is now headed to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature.

The military's current process for sexual assault and harassment cases gives higher-ups the authority to prosecute  internally, which has led to accusations that complaints go ignored or are swept under the rug.

Now, for the first time in American military history, ranking commanders will not make decisions on whether to prosecute service members accused of a number of serious crimes, TNN reports. Instead, an independent prosecutor will make those calls in cases involving serious crimes such as manslaughter, kidnapping, stalking and domestic violence.

The bill would also require that survivors be notified about the outcome of cases against their alleged abuser and require the Department of Defense to track allegations of retaliation.

The reforms come after the Guillén family and advocacy groups across the nation rallied for changes in the way the armed forces handle sexual assault and trauma cases.

Guillén family attorney Natalie Khawam has said that before soldier disappeared she told her family that she was sexually harassed by 20-year-old Spc. Aaron Robinson but was afraid to report the incident for fear of retaliation. Army investigators said they were unable to confirm those allegations.

In July of last year, police moved to arrest Robinson in connection with Guillén’s disappearance. However, he shot and killed himself before he could be apprehended.

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