Three years after Vanessa Guillen’s murder, nonprofit still fighting for change in military

Published: Apr. 22, 2023 at 12:03 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Three years ago on April 22, 2020, Vanessa Guillen was brutally murdered after telling her mother she was being sexually harassed at Fort Hood army post. Guillen was missing for two months before authorities found her remains buried in a clandestine grave along the Leon River in rural Bell County.

Now, a nonprofit called “Red, White and Bruised” is working to continue the work her family fought so hard for.

”What happened across the country is that with our civilian counterparts the conditions were there to feel our feelings viscerally,” said Lindsey Knapp, a veteran and Red, White and Bruised partner.

At the height of the pandemic Guillen’s death ignited calls for change at Fort Hood and at other military installations across the country. In the summer of 2020 family and friends of Guillen held peaceful protests outside the entrance of Fort Hood to get answers about the soldier’s disappearance.

Just a day after Guillen’s disappearance in 2020, Amy Franck launched her nonprofit Never Alone Advocacy, which later merged and became the bigger organization called Red, White and Bruised.

”It is everybody’s child after Vanessa Guillen and everybody’s child before Vanessa Guillen,” Franck said. “It’s not stopping because there’s no accountability.”

Red, White and Bruised works directly with sexual assault and harassment victims in the military and their families. The organization helps put together vigils for victims across the country and hosts educational events on sexual assault and harassment in the military.

Knapp, along with Franck, work together to also push for legislation on a national level to address these issues.

The two worked on the Vanessa Guillen Act that President Biden signed into law in 2021. The law changed the way the military handles sexual assault or sexual harassment investigations to outside service members’ chain of command.

”Every piece of legislation we push forward is excellent for reform, but what I need is for the Senate and Congress to hold the military accountable,” Franck said.

Franck and Knapp say that the issue of sexual assault and harassment in the military still exists three years after Guillen’s murder and well before she joined the army.

”It’s the same pattern that we keep seeing over and over again,” Knapp said. “These service members are being retaliated against for speaking out and being denied mental health services.”

The most recent report from the Department of Defense showed that in 2021 8.4% of active duty women reported unwanted sexual contact.

”Until folks are held accountable for not addressing this, we’re going to keep running into the same problem,” Knapp said.