Vanessa Guillen's disappearance prompts other women to speak out about sexual misconduct in the military
FORT HOOD, Texas - The search for missing Fort Hood soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillen continued on Sunday.
Texas Equusearch combed Bell County with a helicopter, ATV’s and a ground crew.
RELATED: US Army troopers continue searching for missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen
The 20-year-old Houston woman disappeared from Fort Hood on April 22. She told her family and friends she was being sexually harassed on post.
"Which is unacceptable because she was supposed to be safe while working, protecting the country we live in," said Lupe Guillen, Vanessa Guillen’s sister.
Her lawyer Natalie Khawam said, "Guillen had a sergeant come into a shower, inappropriately walk into a shower while she was naked."
RELATED: Friends, family of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen gather outside Fort Hood hoping for answers
It is unclear if Guillen’s disappearance is linked to the reported sexual harassment. A spokesperson for Army CID says they have no credible information that Guillen was sexually harassed or assaulted but say they have not ruled anything out.
Guillen's regiment has assigned an investigating officer to determine if any sexual misconduct took place in the unit. CID is working with that officer.
Guillen’s story has prompted hundreds of women to share their own experiences with sexual misconduct in the military on social media, using the hashtag #iamvanessaguillen.
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"I want people to know that us women, and women in the military we don’t need to be protected, we need to be respected," said Yarimar Lewis.
19-year-old Lewis was also a Private First Class at Fort Hood.
"I wanted to serve my country," she explained.
Lewis says she was also sexually harassed by a superior on post.
"I chose to use the #iamvanessaguillen because you know it’s been 19 years since this particular incident. I was a 19-year-old I was a Pfc. I was new to Fort Hood, my first duty station and things have not changed."
U.S. Army investigators suspect foul play in Guillen's disappearance.
RELATED: 'Foul play' suspected in case of missing Ft. Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen
"Nothing has changed, the culture is still the same even though we have SHARP (Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention) training and people are required to attend these trainings on a yearly basis it doesn’t address the actual culture."
Lewis would like to see sexual misconduct investigations separate from the army chain of command, something Guillen's family has also called for.
"‘It’s difficult for the chain of command to separate themselves from ‘hey I know this person we worked together, we deployed together, we don’t want to see their career end and so that becomes a priority versus the safety and the equality of women in the military.’"she explained.
Texas Equusearch founder Tim Miller says the group will resume searching for Guillen mid-week.
A news conference was held after a meeting with Ft. Hood officials to discuss the latest findings in the search for Guillen and what the family intends to do moving forward.
"You know, the more we speak, the more we put ourselves out there the more we can help others speak up," said Lewis.
Tiffany Summa also spoke up, sharing her story with the #iamvanessaguillen.
In a social media post, she wrote "I never got justice. But I will fight like hell for Vanessa to[o]. That’s why I’m sharing."
Summa was 20 and had just arrived home from Iraq when she says she was sexually assaulted by someone she deployed with.
RELATED: Investigation initiated into sexual harassment allegations concerning missing Ft. Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen
She says she also believes sexual misconduct investigations need to separate from the chain of command. "Your abuser may be in that very chain of command," she explained.
She says even if the assailant is of lower rank, "a young soldier should never have to sit with his or her boss and tell in great detail, over and over again, about the worst night of their life. Rank should never be a factor in the reporting process."
She says as soon as she learned about Guillen’s disappearance and sexual harassment complaints, "it was what I had and so many [military sexual trauma victims] had feared in our own cases."