Vanessa Guillen family seeking $35M in damages from Army
The family of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who was found dead in 2020 at Fort Hood, Texas, is seeking $35 million in damages from the Army, according to a court filing.
“Guillén suffered mental anguish, fear, emotional distress, physical injury, and death as a result of sexual harassment, rape, sodomy, and physical assault,” the claim, made under the Federal Tort Claims Act and shared by the Texas Tribune, asserts. Her sister, Mayra Guillén, is the claimant.
The family is asking for $25 million in personal injury claims and $10 million for Vanessa Guillén’s wrongful death. It moved forward shortly after a court ruling that a prohibition on service members seeking damages from service-related injuries does not apply to sexual assault.
Vanessa Guillén, 20, was reportedly bludgeoned to death and buried by a fellow Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Army investigators have confirmed that she was also sexually assaulted during her service, though not by her killer.
In a statement accompanying the claim, Mayra Guillén said her younger sister had initially waited to disclose sexual harassment allegations for fear of retaliation. When another soldier tried to report them on her behalf, Vanessa Guillén “suffered major retaliation” and wanted to commit suicide, Mayra Guillén wrote.
On Thursday, a panel of judges ruled in Spletstoser v. Hyten, a case in which Air Force Gen. John Hyten, facing sexual assault allegations from Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, argued that the Feres doctrine, which prohibits troops from suing for injuries sustained during service, also applied to sexual assault.
The judges, however, wrote in an opinion that “alleged sexual assault [could] not conceivably serve any military purpose” and that the Feres doctrine did not therefore apply.
The Guillen family filed their claim on Friday.