US President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order making sexual harassment an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and other provisions of the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act.
The act is part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress and sent to Biden’s desk in December.
The executive order also improves the military’s response to domestic violence and to the unlawful distribution of intimate imagery.
President Biden just signed an Executive Order to establish sexual harassment as an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice — as called for by the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 26, 2022
The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act was named for the 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier who was allegedly murdered by a fellow soldier in 2020. Guillen’s dismembered body was found weeks after she disappeared.
Aaron Robinson is believed to have beaten Guillen to death with a hammer in a Fort Hood armory room in April 2020, allegedly over sexual harassment reports filed by Guillen. Robinson and his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, then allegedly dismembered her body and buried it near the Leon River, where it was found in June.
Aguilar was arrested, but Robinson committed suicide as authorities closed in on him.
Aguilar has been charged with conspiracy to destroy evidence; destroying evidence; accessory after the fact; destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation; and false statement or representation.
Guillen’s sister, Mayra Guillen — who along with other members of the fallen soldier’s family pushed for the legislation — tweeted out her gratitude.
It took so much to put my feelings aside and fight for what’s right. I didn’t have a chance to grieve… Looking for you on a daily basis for almost two months, not knowing the outcome. Tears of both joy and sadness. You made the world a better place. Now let’s fight for justice. pic.twitter.com/WOLNLbaNuV
— Mayra Guillen (@mguilen_) January 26, 2022
Guillen told family members she was being sexually harassed on base, but she also said she was afraid to report to her commanding officers for fear of retaliation. A report by the Army concluded that commanders ignored Guillen’s complaints when she did report them, according to CBS News.
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[Featured image: Vanessa Guillen/handout]