Nancy Pelosi agrees to bring #IAmVanessaGuillen act to house floor

ByCharly Edsitty KTRK logo
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
'I Am Vanessa Guillen' Act introduced with bipartisan support
Vanessa Guillen's legacy enters Capitol Hill in the form of a bipartisan bill aimed at reforming sexual assault in the military. The video breaks down what has gone into getting to this point.

WASHINGTON -- Legislators met at Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to present the "I Am Vanessa Guillen" bill, hoping it could be the start of change in the U.S. military five months after the Houston soldier was murdered at Fort Hood.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier announced that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has agreed to bring the proposed legislation to the House of Representatives floor.

Speier said as of Wednesday, the bill has 73 Democrat and Republican co-sponsors.

She noted that if 90 additional Republican members sponsor the bill, it will be taken up under a suspension rule and presented on the floor even sooner.

Regardless, they predict the legislation will be brought to the floor in the next few weeks or in November.

The Guillen family has been very vocal about passing the proposed bipartisan bill, which would allow active duty military members to file sexual harassment and assault claims to a third party.

It would also make sexual harassment a crime under military law and would move prosecutions of sexual assault and harassment out of the chain of command.

Legislators at Wednesday's event held signs that said "Military sexual trauma ends with us #EndMST."

Speier shared statistics about sexual assault in the military at the event.

She says in 2018, 20,000 individuals said they were sexually harassed. Of those 20,000, she said 5,000 filed a report.

Out of the 5,000, less than 500 of the cases went to court and less than 250 were convicted, Speier said.

The Fort Hood soldier's family will join several U.S. lawmakers this morning at the capitol building to introduce the bipartisan bill.

The military is 25% female, yet women make up 63% of reported assaults.

Speier noted that the youngest, lowest ranking women are the ones most likely to be victims.

Tomorrow, legislators will travel to Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas to meet with military and Killeen police.

They intend to visit the crime scenes of Vanessa and other victims at the base that has reported almost 30 deaths in 2020 alone.

"Although we can't bring Vanessa back, with this bill we honor her legacy," Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia said through tears.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said Vanessa's case hit close to home and left an imprint on the community.

"Vanessa Guillen and her family are Precinct 2 constituents and so from that point, it hits very close to home, and plus when I see her, I see my own daughter," Adrian said. "Someone I would be proud if she would tell me one day that she wanted to serve the U.S. military, but I would not encourage her, especially after hearing Vanessa's story."

Adrian said the community has the opportunity to help make history by getting involved in the process of passing the bill.

The family of Vanessa Guillen continues to fight for justice and policy reform months after her death.

"There's three folks that we have to get involved and make sure that they hear us very loud and clear: Senator [John] Cornyn, Senator [Ted] Cruz and Senator Mitch McConnell," explained Adrian. "Those are the three most powerful people in the United States Senate at this moment, and they can weigh in with the full power of their offices to encourage Congress to pass a bipartisan bill immediately. Then they can take it up in the senate and then put it into law, and put it on the president's desk and get a signature on it."

He said it's important that the process does not stall-out and people can use their voice to help see it through.

WATCH: ABC 20/20 I am Vanessa Guillen

The uninterrupted episode features previously unreported information on the investigation and how Vanessa's killer left Fort Hood the day he died by suicide.

"Let's make sure we follow in Lupe Guillen's example," Adrian said. "Use your voice. Speak up. Doesn't matter how old you are, doesn't matter your walk of life. Use your social media to engage those three people."

Maira Carrier is a military veteran and advocate. She was one of the first to post her story using the hashtag '#IAmVanessaGuillen' and has since received dozens of messages from other service members who said they have experienced sexual harassment or assault while serving.

Carrier said seeing Vanessa's story brought back the trauma she experienced while also spotlighting the need for change.

"The bill has to pass," Carrier said. "I didn't feel comfortable, and even when I did, to go report this to somebody that was close to me. So, I know if I would have had that third party to report to, that things would have been so different."

Carrier also watched the 20/20 special called 'I Am Vanessa' that aired on ABC13 Friday. She said she needed to hear more from the U.S. Army officials and future actions.

"It was just very disappointing," Carrier said referring to the U.S. Army Secretary's answers. "It's affecting everybody in the military throughout every branch. It's affecting the families. It's not just something that happens physical that affects you right there and then. It is a long-lasting affect."

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ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: How has the military handled Vanessa Guillen's case? What does her family know about the suspects in her disappearance? Hit play to hear their answers.

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