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Congressman Gonzalez Supports the Bipartisan I Am Vanessa Guillén Act

Statement

Date: Sept. 16, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

Today, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) announced his support for the bipartisan I am Vanessa Guillén Act introduced following the horrific disappearance and brutal murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillén of Houston, Texas.

The recent deaths of Spc. Vanessa Guillén and Sgt. Elder Fernandes are just two of multiple soldier disappearances, homicides, sexual assaults and deaths at Fort Hood over the past few years. This legislation seeks to address problems in the way the military responds to these reports, encourage survivors to report sexual assaults and sexual harassment, more effectively bring justice for survivors, and strengthen the military's ability to protect those in uniform.

"Congress must meet this moment with action and change," said Congressman Gonzalez. "Since 2016, more troops from Fort Hood have died in homicides on and off base than in combat zones. That's unacceptable by every measure. I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to get this bill passed and signed into law so we can bring justice for families who have lost loved ones."

The I am Vanessa Guillén Act would:

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 the Department of Defense's (DOD) Catch a Serial Offender database;
Require the Government Accountability Office (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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