Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Filemon Vela (D-TX) joined Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) in introducing the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020 in honor of the late Specialist Vanessa Guillen and survivors of military sexual violence who have bravely come forward in the wake of her disappearance and brutal murder.
The bill responds to resounding calls for change by reforming the military’s response to missing servicemembers and reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by making sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command.
“I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this key piece of legislation in honor of Specialist Vanessa Guillen,” said Congressman Vela. “No woman should be subjected to any form of harassment, and the staggering statistic that one in four of our heroic women in uniform are subjected to sexual harassment or assault is unacceptable. This bill will strengthen the military’s ability to effectively respond to reports of missing servicemembers and victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault, thus encouraging victims to come forward and helping to prevent devastating cases like SPC Guillen from ever happening again.”
The I am Vanessa Guillen Act includes provisions to:
· Move prosecution decisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases outside of the chain of command to an Office of the Chief Prosecutor within each military service;
· Create a standalone military offense for sexual harassment;
· Establish trained sexual harassment investigators who are outside of the chain of command of the complainant and the accused;
· Create a confidential reporting process for sexual harassment that is integrated with DoD’s Catch a Serial Offender database;
· Require GAO to investigate the military’s procedures for finding missing servicemembers and compare with procedures used by civilian law enforcement and best practices;
· Require both DoD and GAO to conduct separate evaluations of the military services’ Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) programs; and
· Establish a process by which servicemembers can make claims for negligence against DoD in the case of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
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