The recent killings of two young servicewomen, Vanessa Guillen and Natasha Aposhian, highlight issues of sexual harassment and assault in the U.S. military. Their families are now leading the fight for a change in the way the military investigates those crimes.
- A new criminal complaint alleges a fellow soldier at Fort Hood, Texas killed Vanessa Guillén and hid her body with the help of his girlfriend. Guillén disappeared more than two months ago.
- My sister Vanessa Guillén was sexually harassed, yet nothing was done to it. Because if this can happen to my sister, it can happen to anyone else.
BRIAN MURRAY: My name is Brian Christopher Murray. I'm the father of Airman Natasha Raye Aposhian that was murdered on June 1, 2020, Grand Forks, North Dakota Air Force Base.
She was 21. She had the world ahead of her. She was just super intelligent, smart, caring. If you were her friend, you had a friend for life. Loyal, she's your typical 21-year-old, just liked to go out and have a good time.
BETH FORD ROTH: My name is Beth Ford Roth, and I'm a independent journalist. I have been covering the military I'd say for about two decades in different capacities. It's sad that it had to take a tragedy to once again try and shine a light on this problem of women who are sexually assaulted, sexually harassed in the military.
BRIAN MURRAY: So she only knew this gentleman for a few weeks. They'd only been dating about five to seven days. Dude was very controlling. She had ended things with him. She feared that he might, because she had ended it, that he might retaliate. I told her that if you feel that way, make sure you let somebody know. I'm not sure if she did or not. I think part of it was because a lot of times people are scared to come forward.
- It's a step in the right direction, but it definitely, obviously, has not solved the problem. The biggest problem is that women do not feel safe reporting that they are very hesitant to go forward and report what happened to them. Because they must do so within their chain of command. And often the harasser or the person who has assaulted them is within the chain of command.
In this case, if this bill makes it through Congress and get signed into law, then women and men who are the victims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse can report it to this independent third party. And then that party would decide whether or not there was enough evidence to prosecute. So it would just take it away from the group, basically, that these women are fearful of retaliation.
BRIAN MURRAY: We would like to see a third party separate from the military be and still be instituted, so that not only females, even if there are male service men, if they are being bullied or they feel harassed, that they have a safe place to go to. If you're on a US base, that should be the safest place.
RYAN MCCARTHY: And we are incredibly disappointed that we let Vanessa down and we let their family down. We vow for the rest of our time in service and our life to prevent these types of acts and to find out how we could prevent them in the future, so that it never happens again.