Hundreds of people marched in East Austin on Sunday to honor Vanessa Guillén, the 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier who is believed to have been killed by another soldier in April. Her death, and the fact that she reportedly suffered harassment during her service, has sparked protest over the treatment of women in the military.
“I'm out here to support Vanessa, but also every other soldier that's out there, because I have cousins and I have friends and family in the Army, too,” said Celes Inostroza, one of the marchers. “This could be them, and I would want the same support and love and justice.”
Protesters and Guillén’s family are calling for changes to how the military handles cases of harassment and violence.
Before the march got underway, Guillén’s cousin, Uriel Guillén, urged protesters to support the federal “I Am Vanessa Guillén” bill. If made law, it would let service members file claims of harassment and assault with an independent third party instead of their line of command.
"We want to protect our future soldiers," he said.
Jennifer Massucci, who wore military fatigues to the event, said she was raped during her time in the Marines and that the demands for military accountability were long overdue.
“For so long we’ve been invisible,” she said. “Now that it’s in the national eye, it’s relieving, it’s awesome. It's painful, but it’s also cathartic.”
Massucci said allowing independent unbiased investigations of harassment and assault allegations was a necessary first step.
“Because, when you put it in the chain of command, everybody’s friends with everybody, because it’s a boy's club," she said. "So, it’s very hard to be protected that way."