Voices for VanessaDateline NBC
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- 24 Nov 2020
When soldier Vanessa Guillen vanishes from Fort Hood, her family does everything they can to bring attention to her disappearance. As weeks go by without any sign of Vanessa, revelations about her case inspire a movement. Andrea Canning reports.
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Tonight on Dateline, how a female soldiers disappearance revealed a dark and very different kind of military secret. The NSA was a good soldier. Does she go into the army to help people? Is another soldier notified that she was missing? They're searching their company areas. They're searching the installation. It's like she vanished into thin air. This takes a turn, this story. So her family said that she was being sexually harassed by a superior. This kicked off the hashtag, I am Vanessa.
Do they have the right to rob my sister? Women are coming forward saying they, too, were sexually harassed in the Army. Enough is enough. We need to change this.
The trends are going the wrong way, and that's really tearing at us as an institution. A man who is out digging holes sees what he thinks is human hair.
I kept praying because miracles could happen. So please don't let it be. Here's Andrea Canning with Voices for Vanessa. I couldn't believe this is happening to me. It was the scariest part in my life because I was alone.
So many were quiet for so long, I was harassed, sexually assaulted, raped and physically threatened. This man that I trusted, I felt violated. I felt stupid.
But now now they want to be heard by the men who sexually assaulted me are still serving in uniform today.
There's no excuse for harassment. He has to stop. All these voices inspired by one that suddenly last April went silent. April 22nd should have been an easy Wednesday for Private First Class Vanessa Gion, the 20 year old was heading to her station at Fort Hood, where she'd complete a few tasks her boss had texted her about the night before. Even in this regimented army world, PFC Gion texted a lot with her boyfriend, her girlfriends, and according to her sister, Lupe Inessa, constantly texted with their mother, Gloria.
My mom like to text her every other hour, like, ah, what are you eating? Are you OK?
So it was strange when by midday their mom stopped hearing from Vanessa. That's when her sister Myra tried to reach her.
The call went straight to voicemail and lunchtime. I texted her the message to send. I tried calling again. I went to voicemail. That's when I started getting really scared.
Vanessa Gibbons life story was a typically American one, the daughter of immigrants, one of six children. She was a mix of many things ambition, generosity, humor. When no one was watching her.
She was with her family. What was her personality like?
She was goofy. Like she just laughter herself. So, like, her laugh just was contagious.
According to her mother, Gloria, even as a child, Vanessa was laser focused.
Is it true she wanted to be in the army as young as 10 years old?
S.A.C. is the one of the me mommy is the way it's going to be malignancy.
The ACLU, Oyewole, Tallulah's entities who are trying and use by high school, it look like Vanessa would have plenty of options in life. She excelled in school and her friend Ashley Macias said sports were her thing. Running, working out. She was doing, always exercising.
Was she the whole package in high school? She was friendly with everybody she encountered.
As graduation neared, Vanessa told her family she hadn't changed her mind. She still planned to enlist in the army.
She wanted to help others, and she wanted to like have better opportunities.
After basic training, Vanessa was assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Division at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. There, she specialized in small arms and artillery repair. Things went well. Vanessa made friends, received great feedback from her superiors, and on the weekends she'd make the three hour drive down to visit her family in Houston.
But a few months in, her family noticed a change. I would also to know Noemi and Gloria asked her daughter what was wrong. There was a customer in Cannon-Brookes, but Victoria Stoian.
Now, a year later, Vanessa had gone off the family radar. As the day passed, her silence nagged admirer. Of course, Vanessa could just be occupied with work. Still, it wasn't like Vanessa to disappear. Problem was where to look for her.
Fort Hood is one of the largest army installations in the world.
Jazmyne Caldwell reports on Fort Hood for NBC affiliate KCNC TV.
It has about 214 thousand acres. There's about 65000 soldiers, roughly. So it's a very, very large place.
Myra agonized the place was so large her sister could easily be forgotten. And she didn't like what she was hearing when she said she spoke with one of Vanessa's staff sergeants.
He just wasn't able to tell me anything. And and that just made me even more upset, too upset to sit home and wait. You headed to Fort Hood, so you needed answers, right? Myra says she was surprised by the reception she got at the gate. What did they tell you? They tried to ask me if I knew anything. I'm like, if I knew anything, I wouldn't be standing here. So this is this is a mystery.
What happened to your sister? No one knows anything.
Everyone claims that they they just didn't know.
Army investigators did tell the family one terrifying thing. Everything was there.
Her car, her keys, credit card I.D. itself, her military I.D. and she would never leave without it.
That is extremely bizarre that she's gone. But all these critical items that, of course, any soldier would would have, especially the ID is there. What did that tell you?
Something really bad happened to her. And how does she just disappear exactly? How does someone just disappear from a military base? When we come back, my first thought, she must have went AWOL and then the last images of Vanesa before she went missing, picking up food at a local restaurant, the owner says she seemed like she was worried about something.
On April 24th, two days after Vanessa Gibbon's disappearance, the Army released what's called a be on the lookout notice a BOLO. At first, Jazmyne Caldwell of NBC affiliate Casey and TV didn't pay much attention to it. It happens often. My first of all, she must have went AWOL, you know, just swept under the rug.
But then, you know, the next day it you know, it just it wouldn't go away, you know, kind of like, well, let's look into this, Vanessa.
Family and friends are determined to find her.
What caught Jasmine's eye right away was the determination of Vanessa's family. You didn't leave the area. You stayed. I told her mom, I'm not going to leave until I know something or until I find her.
I know she's going to be with us soon.
I can feel it by now. Fort Hood had dispatched soldiers to search for Vanessa. Local, state and federal law enforcement helped. But as the number of days without Vanessa grew, her family wondered if the search lacked urgency. So they kept pressure on investigators and searchers even looking for her themselves.
It's a matter of time before somebody, you know, actually confesses something or we we find a way to find her ourselves.
Research in anywhere we like, keep printing posters, put in everywhere, contacting people like Dateline.
Dateline posted a Missing in America article about Vanessa reaching hundreds of thousands of people online. The family didn't let up, but they say the army wasn't much help, that they got very little information from Fort Hood.
They tried to like, we can't help you any more because there's no information, there's no tips going on. But like, that's your job, do your job.
The family said their conversations at Fort Hood disturbed them. They felt ignored that the Army wasn't sharing enough details and that the search was still moving too slowly. He started protesting the escape at there, telling them that we're not going to leave. We're going to stay here until we find Vanessa.
Even with weekly rallies, local TV coverage and intensified searches. There was no sign of Vanessa. A reward was posted. Hundreds of people were searching, but weeks had gone by and nothing. I still had faith.
I have faith that we were going to find her.
Hi, Jasmine. Then Jasmine Caldwell found what she thought was a clue. Hey, Chris. The owner of Tocchet, a Mexico restaurant here in Killeen, gave me surveillance footage. It was video, Vanesa, from a week before she went missing. You can see her getting out of her white jeep and going to get food inside to Mexico. The last images of Vanessa before she disappeared. The owner, himI Moreno, says he knew her well and says the last time he saw Guy and she didn't seem like her normal, cheerful self.
In fact, he says she seemed like she was worried about something.
Our partner network, Telemundo, went with Gloria to the restaurant as she tried to find out what she could get. What more can I do? Wait to see who can help me investigate and hope they find her.
For weeks, the family had been trying anything, everything to find Vanessa, including a big push on social media.
We started the Facebook page five minutes again. Their Facebook page was exploding every day.
We took like 10000 followers, 10000 likes, and now Jasmine Station had company. It's getting national attention. So it was just we lived like we eat, sleep and breathe, Vanessa. It was getting traction.
We kept pressure as a family because we wanted answers to how how much people actually do care.
We're not in the fight alone.
Meanwhile, Lupe began reading up on Fort Hood. She discovered a series of investigations into problems.
There was like my sister's not only missing from Fort Hood, Army base, Fort Hood. Then I read to mass shootings, not only one of the various parties to Shearing's gang members, drug use violence. I was like, what's happening in Fort Hood? In addition, Fort Hood has some of the highest murder, sexual harassment and sexual assault rates in the U.S. Army, knowing that only made the family doubt the Army officials more. Nearly two months after Vanessa disappeared, her family took a dramatic step, Vanessa's mother said Vanessa told her a secret.
She said she had been sexually harassed by a superior.
The family went public on Telemundo nonstop on this question. I'm being harassed by a sergeant. What do you mean harassed?
She said sexually. I said.
And you didn't report this person? No. She never took that step for fear of reprisals and because they wouldn't believe her. Vanessa's family was certain her disappearance was connected to sexual harassment. They have the right to arrest my sister. They demanded investigators get to the bottom of it. They all have a. What are you like? You know, they revealed Vanessa's secret in hopes of solving a mystery. What they didn't realize was that they just started a movement.
Coming up, outrage and then an outpouring, the stories these women were posting, it was just flooding social media channels, stories of what some call the man's world of the military.
I told them, you really need to cut that out. And he said, why were you going to do about it? That was the lowest point for me.
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The two month search to find Private First Class Vanessa Gion had suddenly taken on a new dimension, it was becoming a movement to fight sexual harassment in the military. When her family said that, she told them she was being sexually harassed. That news I remember reading it and thinking this is something bigger than just a missing soldier.
Haley Brisky reports on the Army for Taskin Purpose, a magazine that covers the military. We started hearing a lot of noise. A lot of people were not happy. And this message was really getting out with Vanessa's name at the center of it. This kicked off the hashtag I am Vanessa again. And the stories these women were posting, it was just flooding social media channels.
These are the voices of active service members and veterans who posted harrowing accounts of sexual harassment and assault they said they endured while serving their country.
A leader sexually assaulted me and I didn't say anything because I was warned that nothing would happen in my career would within. I was absolutely sexually harassed quite a bit during my time in the Navy. I've gone through so many therapy sessions and medications. He got a slap on the wrist. The day I heard this news was the day that I lost faith in the military.
I was harassed verbally and sexually, and everyone's answer to women being harassed was that you could never do anything about it.
Melissa Bryant says sexual harassment was common throughout her military career. The former Army captain works as an advocate for veterans.
Sometimes it was slick and sometimes it was just so egregiously disgusting that I would just laugh it off.
She says she's proud of her service but suffered verbal sexual harassment throughout her time in the Army.
I usually got comments about my breasts a lot. Really? Oh, yes. Yes, a lot like the like. How do you manage to do push ups with those?
Oh, and were any of the comments hitting on you? Oh yes. And then they'd say, oh, no offense, ma'am. You know, you just one of the good looking ones.
Melissa says she had to be careful how she reacted, especially with superiors.
What if it was your superior making an inappropriate comment? And let's say you did snap back what would happen? There were definitely probably be a reprimand at that point. There is a very real fear of retaliation. But it wasn't just her superiors.
I was in company command and I had a soldier make comments toward me. You know, I told him, hey, you really need to cut that out. And he said, why? What are you going to do about it? And in my mind, I realized I'm going to do anything about it. That was the lowest point for me.
When you have that realization that he's right, I'm not going to do it. That's a horrible realization. It was a horrible realization.
This is someone who's reporting to me who's essentially taking away my authority and my agency as a woman and also as an officer and saying you're not going to do anything about it. For Bryant, the message was clear, taking on harassers could damage her career. Is it fair to say the military is still mostly a man's world?
And very much so is it's changing, but it's still very much a male dominated world.
And while the military has set up programs like Sharp, the Army's Sexual Harassment and Abuse Response Program, reports of sexual harassment still rose by 10 percent between 2018 and 2019. Higher numbers can partly be attributed to some service members feeling more comfortable reporting harassment and abuse.
Well, as Vanessa's disappearance turned into a cause, her family brought on board a firebrand attorney named Natalie KWAM to get to the bottom of their claims. Vanessa was sexually harassed, she said.
How much are you going to charge us? And I said, I'm not going to charge you anything. You lost your sister. I want to help you out.
But KWAM says the Army was reluctant to share details on the case with her, too.
Is it possible that they were doing all this investigation, but they were just really holding it because that's how they operate and they are going to share critical details in an investigation with a missing person case.
You share information with the family. And the reason I feel like they didn't want to share information with us is because they didn't want that being critiqued. They don't want to be questioned.
Major General Donna Martin commands the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, the CID, which investigated Vanessa's disappearance.
I think there's a misperception out there by many that because we watch all of these crime shows on TV that they unfold that easily and that DNA turns around and that evidence just turns up and it doesn't happen like that in real life.
How important was this investigation? She says behind the scenes, the investigation was much more intense than anyone realized. She'll take us inside it next. Coming up on bass, a frustrating hunt for clues, any blood evidence, there are no signs of blood, no signs of a struggle. No, it's like she vanished into thin air, almost.
My sister back and I won her, like Vanessa, Ian's family and her supporters were convinced the army had been negligent in its response to her disappearance.
This investigation was absolutely the number one priority. General Donna Martin says the army was doing everything possible to find Vanessa.
And a lot of soldiers were helping over 500 soldiers turn out at this point. They're searching their company areas. They're searching the installation. They're looking everywhere for Vanessa.
And in the weeks that followed. She says her investigators chased down every lead.
We conducted over 300 interviews with members from the unit and from soldiers from Fort Hood.
She says investigators started by narrowing down a timeline of Vanessa's day, where she was and who she was with. Every person who had an encounter with Vanessa that day was a person of interest to us.
Vanessa's first encounter was at 10 a.m. in a weapons storage and repair room known as an arms room. She left personal items there with a soldier whose rank was specialist.
So we learned that specialist had spent some time with her and actually, because she had left those items in the first arms room, had an expectation that she would return.
Investigators learned that when Vanessa left that room, she walked 75 yards to a second arms room.
She met another specialist there sometime after 10, 20 specialists told us that Vanessa had arrived at his arms room and that she had conducted her task and then she left. Was there any reason to suspect that he had done anything wrong? No. In fact, Vanessa texted her platoon leader. She'd completed her tasks in the second arms room and three eyewitnesses smoking under a tree said they saw Vanessa at 11 15.
Those soldiers told us in an interview that they saw Vanessa move towards the parking lot. And so because we knew her car was in the parking lot, we absolutely searched her car. Was anything found in the car?
No. Investigators would end up bringing in a forensics unit to look for evidence, any blood evidence, any smell of cleaning supplies that would suggest that something had happened in one of those rooms.
So there are no signs of blood in the armchair, no signs of a struggle? No. It's like she vanished into thin air, almost. Did you see anything in her personal life? Any red flags? None at all. This is a responsible soldier. Yes, absolutely no information that would suggest she would walk away of her own volition. Weeks went by. Then the case shifted focus when investigators learned the soldiers who thought they'd seen Vanessa at 11 15 had been mistaken.
They'd really seen her an hour earlier, around the time she'd met with the two soldiers in the arms rooms. Did either of these soldiers have any reason to kill Vanessa that you could gather? We have no information that will lead us that either of these soldiers had a reason to kill Vanessa. Even so, the specialist Vanessa was with in the second arms room could have been the last person to see her alive.
His name was Aaron Robinson, a 20 year old combat engineer, what was Robinson's alibi that day?
Specialist Robinson tells us that once he had met with the NSA that he pretty much was done for the day. And so he actually locked the arms room and he left for the day.
Robinson's personal ID was entered into the security system indicating he'd left the arms room. When he said he did. Did he go home? That was his story.
He told us he was home for the rest of the evening. And who was he with? Cecilia Aguilar.
Cecily Aguilar was Robinson's 22 year old girlfriend, a civilian estranged from her husband.
Aguilar worked at a local gas station but had a side business on social media posting racy pictures of herself for quick cash just to be held.
Reporter Jasmine Cauldwell learned from court records that Aguilar told investigators pretty much the same story as Robinson's the night of April 22nd.
She was, you know, at her home with Aaron Robinson, didn't know anything about the disappearance of Vanessa Gion, but that wasn't adding up for investigators. In court documents, they laid out an entire scenario of Vanessa's disappearance using cell phone analysis.
Military reporter Haley Briskey says the documents reveal the night Vanessa went missing. There were multiple calls between Aguilar and Robinson. That seemed odd because they both said they were together all night at home and the phones were both there, his and hers, right? Yes.
Aguilar told investigators she could explain those calls. The reason he'd called her multiple times is because she couldn't find her phone and he was helping her find it. Investigators knew that wasn't quite the full story because the calls were longer than you would expect for someone just quickly calling to help you find your cell phone in a later interview.
They confronted sassily Aguilar with location data that placed her phone about 20 miles from her home near a river.
While at first she did confirm the story that she had been at home the entire night. She later backtracked and said they had taken a drive to destress to look at the stars.
If sassily Aguilar story seemed shaky to investigators, they became even more suspicious when search teams arrived at the river and made a disturbing discovery. So they found what they described as a burn site.
Among the scorched trees were remnants of a big, burned out plastic box called a tough box.
Investigators had stumbled upon a huge clue. Weeks earlier, two witnesses had seen Robinson wheeling a tough box out of the arms room the day Vanessa went missing. But what did it mean? And was it enough to arrest him? In a case like this, you really have to dot your I's and cross your T's. That's exactly right.
And that burned tough box in and of itself was not a real connection to to Specialist Robinson.
At this point, investigators feared the worst, but they still couldn't prove anything. They had no evidence Robinson had harmed Vanessa. But nine days later, everything changed.
Coming up, Miles from the base, a heart stopping discovery.
A man who is out digging holes, hits cement and sees what he thinks is human hair. When Dateline continues. As most of us have found out, the hard way getting into debt is easy and getting out is hard, especially if your credit score isn't great. Thankfully, now there's upstart dotcom, the revolutionary lending platform that knows you're more than just your credit score and offers smarter interest rates to help you pay off high interest credit card debt. Upstart makes it fast, simple and easy to check your rate.
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On June 30th, more than a week after investigators searching for Vanessa Gion found a suspicious burned site and the remnants of a black box, contractors installing a fence in the same location stumbled upon something even more sinister.
Investigators have found partial human remains about twenty five miles southeast of Fort Hood.
Most of the investigative work has been happening just back that way beyond that tree.
It was 69 days after Vanessa disappeared.
A man who is out digging holes in this area hits cement.
And when he hits cement, he sees what he thinks is human hair. That is such a disturbing discovery. It's tragic.
So Sid calls you and tells you what?
That they've discovered human remains. Do you in your heart believe it's Vanessa?
I did. And I kept praying, obviously. Please, God, because miracles can happen. I would say, please don't let it be.
An investigator later confirmed the worst with a single detail. He told me about her hair. How did he describe it to her long black hair.
So you're the first in your family to learn this. How do you share the news with everyone else?
I couldn't hold the body of Vanessa G and the missing Fort Hood soldier has been discovered.
Your comment, I found out that my daughter was no longer with me when I got to the house and saw flowers and an altar set up for my little girl. I said, Why are you doing this?
My daughter isn't dead, but she was dead at just 20 years old. Vanessa, again, had been murdered. Vanessa was one of us. It was heartbreaking for all of us.
Hours after Vanessa's body was discovered sassily, Aguilar was called in again for questioning and her story went to pieces.
The moment this all really wrapped together is when Cecily Aguilar, Robinson's girlfriend, confesses all of this to authorities. Aguilar told them her involvement began hours after Vanessa went missing, according to a criminal complaint. That nighttime trip she said she'd made with Robinson to distress and gaze at the stars was just another lie.
Aguilar told investigators that Robinson picked her up from work and went out with him to the river. She tells them that Robinson told her that he killed a female soldier and that he put her in a box and drove her out to the river, Aguilar said.
Robinson led her to the box.
When he opened it, she saw Vanessa get inside of it, and she told investigators that they then went forward to dispose of the body.
They tried to burn her body, but it wasn't burning completely, and that's when they buried her remains into three separate graves in the area. As for the murder itself, investigators say it happened on April 22nd in the arms room where Robinson worked, where there were no security cameras, did Cecily say how he had killed her? She told authorities that Robinson told her he'd hit her several times in the head with a hammer.
It must just tear you apart when you think about her in that room is taken humans like that way, it's disgusting.
I hate to think of it because I can just feel, um. More or less, the pipe that she was in, Vanessa's sisters find comfort in the heartfelt murals honoring Vanessa. I can only imagine why she was killed. I felt that he sexually assaulted her and that Armstrong, they believe he then silenced Vanessa by killing her. No one was there to help her. No one was there to take care of her. Cecily Aguilar's interview was enough to finally take Robinson into custody, but there was a problem.
Even though Robinson had been confined to the barracks due to covid rules and was placed under observation as a suspect in the investigation, he was not under armed guard, so he made his move.
Robinson got out of the barracks and left the base.
Investigators called on sassily Aguilar to help. You're with Aguilar and she is reaching out to Robinson. Yes, this is trying to get him to come out of hiding or. That's correct.
Investigators told Aguilar to call Robinson and they listened in as the couple discussed Vanessa's death. He did not deny anything.
And soon after maybe feeling the walls closing in, Robinson texted Aguilar links to news reports about Vanessa's remains being found.
Earlier that day, she began sort of mentioning these news articles that were covering that some human remains had been found, although they hadn't been identified yet as Vanessa Gibbons. And in a phone call, he told Aguilar, Baby, they found pieces. They found pieces. By pieces, investigators were convinced Robinson meant the remains of a Neysa found by the river. They had the evidence they needed and they had a fix on Robinson's phone.
They moved in to arrest him, but they wouldn't get the chance. Coming up after Vanessa's story and all the others, some tough questions for the army, would you say there's a problem with sexual harassment, sexual assault in the military? The trends are going the wrong way. That's really tearing at us as an institution. But what will they do about it? Army investigators were sure Aaron Robinson murdered Vanessa Gion and now they were closing in on him. He's actually seen by an off duty police officer and they radio to the local police department.
When the officer moved in on Robinson, he started to run and the officer gave chase.
Then there's this confrontation. And when he goes to apprehend him, Robinson takes a gun and shoots himself right there in the street.
Robinson was suddenly dead.
What's it like for you when you get that call that our prime suspect has just killed himself? I mean, a dramatic conclusion.
It is. It means that maybe we'll never find out why he killed Vanessa. It's so open ended and it doesn't give us any closure. And it certainly doesn't give the family any closure because they don't know why.
So Robinson never had to face a judge, but Cecily Aguilar did. She's barbaric. There's not another word for a savage that does that to a human being. She was arrested for tampering with evidence. If convicted, she faces up to 60 years in prison. She has pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, Vanessa's story became so big her family was invited to the White House in July. We need a change and we need a positive change.
President Trump told them he would look into Vanessa's case, quote, very powerfully.
So we're going to get to the bottom of it.
This is a wake up call and it has captivated the attention of the entire Army leadership.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy is a former Army Ranger with combat experience in Afghanistan. I was a soldier and I'm a father of a daughter. And I can't begin to understand the pain that the Giants are under. I have to look at this and fix the system these times.
What would you say to the and family right now if they're watching? I'm heartbroken. I'm sorry. I'm disappointed. And to know that we're going to do everything we can to make the changes necessary so things like this never happen again. Investigators believe Robinson cleaned the crime scene in less than 45 minutes, but army forensics experts only conducted tests in the arms room two months later after Vanessa's remains were found and after Robinson had killed himself.
There's been some criticism that you had a pretty clear idea that Specialist Robinson was the killer and you let him get away.
Looking at how law enforcement comes forward to put a warrant on an individual takes a lot of facts, very challenging of how they come to that conclusion.
I think people look at it and say, this is the army and they couldn't keep an eye on him.
That's something that has to be looked at.
We asked if the secretary had looked at the Army's communication with Vanessa's family.
They say that they were treated with disrespect, that this was a botched investigation.
There are a lot of things that we can and can't see due to the nature of where you are in the investigations. That creates frustration with the families.
And yet they still feel this way. Where do you think the breakdown was? They're upset. Andrea, I mean, they're upset. They want answers will continue to be very frequent in our communications every time we have the information, having them among the first to know. But this family is grieving.
A big part of the family's grief was their belief that Vanessa had been sexually harassed.
Do you think sexual harassment played a role in any way in Vanessa's murder? There's no evidence to suggest that Vanessa Guillam was sexually harassed by Specialist Robinson.
But while her family says Vanessa didn't report being sexually harassed, Secretary McCarthy says her higher ups were aware Vanessa was having a problem.
Allegations were brought forward to her chain of command about her being sexually harassed by a superior will get into the specifics when we're able to talk more in the future.
The Department of Defense report says that in twenty eighteen over 24 percent of active duty women had been sexually harassed and over six percent of active duty men. Would you say there's a problem with sexual harassment, sexual assault in the military?
The trends are going the wrong way. The numbers are very high and that's really tearing at us as an institution.
How do you change that culture? Army senior leaders sitting down with their subordinates and just saying that type of behavior is intolerable. We don't accept it in our ranks and if it continues, we're going to hold people accountable.
Former Army Captain Melissa Bryant says words need to become actions.
It needs to be a complete enforcement. And you police our own. What do you say to women when they ask your advice if they should go into the army right now? I don't know that I could tell my own daughter to go into the military. I'm not sure that my father would tell me now to go into the military. And my father was a Vietnam veteran, served twenty seven years.
Fort Hood seems to epitomize the Army's deeply entrenched and long term problems. Is there a problem there when it comes to fatalities, sexual harassment, sexual assault suicides?
So this year in particular, their numbers are the highest. And most of those categories, like you just mentioned, outside experts recently completed an independent review at Fort Hood.
The Army plans to release those findings and an action plan next month. We have a problem.
We've got to recognize we have a problem and we've got to fix it. It pains me that it took the death of your daughter.
California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, has been trying to pull the military into line for about a decade.
The military brass would come to us and say we have zero tolerance for sexual assault and sexual harassment and they were given a pass. Not anymore, she says.
In a recent military survey, 120000 service members said they'd been sexually harassed, but less than one percent filed a complaint. And when it comes to sexual assault, of the 20 plus thousand cases, only about one percent resulted in convictions.
We are introducing the I am Vanessa Gion legislation today. So she's introduced legislation was strong bipartisan support. The V.A. Again Act that requires sexual harassment and assault complaints be investigated by an independent military prosecutor in the U.S. Army.
Why will things be different this time around? This legislation creates accountability. There will be independent investigations taking place. And I'm going to guarantee that that kind of action is taken by the military by making sure this legislation gets passed.
Would you say that this is the meta movement of the military?
I think there's no question that this is the metoo movement of the military, that NASA will go down in history in saving so many other service members lives.
In mid-August, Vanessa's casket was taken by horse drawn carriage to a memorial service at her former high school. Her family chose a private burial, though a military funeral was an option. We actually declined. My mom didn't want the military casket or anything of that. So because of how the military handled us. Right. I want to see her little face and hug her. I want to see her.
Vanessa's family hopes her legacy will be about bringing change to the Army, giving a voice to so many men and women who have suffered in silence. He is one year when she's now a wonderful angel, that the entire country, not just the entire country, but the whole world knows about and loves even without having met her. That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt, thanks for joining us. Hi, I'm John Thrasher, and I'm Daryn Kagan, and we're the hosts of Oxygen's True Crime podcast, Martinis and Murder.
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