Driven by the murder of Vanessa Guillen, the army will redesign resources for the victims

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The American-Statesman is in his second year of updating the US Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen. Journalist Heather Osbourne has been covering the Guillen case since the soldier’s disappearance in April 2020 and has investigated the toxic culture at Fort Hood which has sparked public outcry and called for reforms from the highest levels of government.

Triggered by the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood last year, the U.S. military last week announced a one-year pilot program at seven military facilities across the country to provide more resources and support to victims of sex crimes among soldiers .

As part of the planned overhaul of its Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP), the military plans to create a “fusion directorate” at each post that will bring together victim advocates, medical teams. , investigators and legal teams in one building. .

Following:Vanessa Guillen’s family call for more responsibility in military handling of Fort Hood soldier’s case

Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Irwin in California, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland will be part of the pilot program. The Army Reserve will pilot a virtual fusion branch for the 99th Readiness Division in New Jersey.

Army Col. Erica Cameron, chief of Operation People First and the SHARP overhaul task force, said Fort Hood will not be part of the pilot because so many changes are already underway at the central post. from Texas.

The SHARP program came under scrutiny last year after Guillen’s family revealed the 20-year-old told them she was being sexually harassed by at least one person in Fort Hood des months before his death.

In the wake of the Guillen affair, investigators were called in last year to take a close look at the way Fort Hood executives are handling the facility. They found that the SHARP program was to blame for the mismanagement of some cases of sexual misconduct.

Fort Hood Independent Review Committee investigators said earlier this year that the post’s SHARP executives told them during their interviews in the summer of 2020 that three in four female soldiers between the ages of 18 and 23 were sexually assaulted or harassed within 8 months of being stationed at Fort Hood.

Investigators said it appeared the SHARP program not only succeeded in protecting soldiers in the summer when the investigation began, but also neglected their duties dating back to 2013. Investigators, during their testimony to Congress in March said SHARP was one of many failing systems, which included the US Army Criminal Investigations Command (CID).

SHARP and CID were found to be run by a small team at Fort Hood, the majority of those in inexperienced positions to handle the complexity of investigations and cases, investigators said.

Now in the SHARP redesign phase, Cameron said the pilot program will make better use of buildings already reserved for the program when it is not operating efficiently.

The pilot program will be very similar to policies already in place under SHARP, but will simply add more personnel to the building so that soldiers can receive assistance from multiple agencies at once, providing a greater opportunity to speak. to defenders outside their chain of command.

Following:Fort Hood Army investigators lacked experience in dealing with post crimes, surveillance team says

“It didn’t look exactly like the merger direction we’re looking at for this pilot,” Cameron said, comparing it to other SHARP buildings put in place in the past. “In many of these cases, they did not have any direct on-site support from the CID, legal, etc.

“They are now expanding to ensure that there is at least a functional space for these organizations to come to support the victims,” ​​she continued. “This is one of our requirements for this pilot program.”

At each of the seven pilot sites, there will be a director of the merger branch who will report to the facility’s senior commander, according to military officials on Wednesday.

“It is intended to increase accountability, transparency and efficiency by coordinating all elements of a victim response,” Cameron said Wednesday. “Co-locating these support services, either physically or virtually, will make it easier for victims to get the help they need and allow them to navigate what can be an emotional and complex process. ”

A welcome sign proclaims the nickname Fort Hood, "The Great Place." But as a result of the murder of Spc.  Vanessa Guillen, investigators were called in last year to take a close look at how executives at Fort Hood are handling the facility.

CPS. Vanessa Guillen of Houston was last seen on April 22, 2020 in Fort Hood, where the 20-year-old was sexually harassed, her family said. One of the people the Guillen family accused of harassing them was a colleague from the CPS. Aaron Robinson.

Months after accusing Robinson of harassment, authorities identified the soldier as a suspect in Guillen’s disappearance. Authorities now believe Robinson beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on the morning of April 22, 2020.

Robinson was shot and killed on July 1, 2020, as authorities sought questioning after finding Guillen’s remains in a nearby river the day before, according to Killeen police. Army officials have never been able to confirm family claims that Robinson harassed Guillen.

At the end of April, a year after Guillen’s disappearance, military officials confirmed that Guillen had been sexually harassed and subjected to reprisals at Fort Hood, as her family in Houston have always claimed in their struggle for reform. of criminal justice in the military. However, army chiefs say it was a non-commissioned officer, whom they refused to identify, who sexually harassed Guillen.

Following:One year after Vanessa Guillen’s death, Fort Hood’s toughest battle changes toxic culture

The public rallied around the Guillen family following the soldier’s disappearance last year, triggering a viral social media hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen, which hundreds of servicemen have used to share their own experiences of sexual misconduct in the ‘army.

Many of their stories were similar, often claiming that the military had done little or nothing to investigate the incidents or prosecute offenders. In numerous social media posts, the soldiers said they never reported their experiences for fear of reprisal.

The #IAmVanessaGuillen movement eventually evolved into the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, a bill which, if included in the National Defense Authorization Act – an annual law that sets out the defense policies of the country – would allow investigators outside a soldier’s direct chain of command to investigate cases of sexual abuse in the military.

I Am Lawmakers Vanessa Guillen say current military protocols are flawed and problematic, as investigators are often those who are part of a victim’s direct chain of command and frequently have personal connections with those accused of a crime and the victim who reports it. As a result, victims fear retaliation if these investigators do not investigate properly and without bias.

Army 1st Lt. Spencer Daulisa honors at a memorial for Spc.  Vanessa Guillen outside Fort Hood in Killeen on July 24, 2020.


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