​A group of protesters hold up a sign reading "Justice for Vanessa Guillen" while marching in the rain

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that the disappearance and murder of Army specialist Vanessa Guillén sent shock waves through the Latino community.

Guillén was just 20 years old when a fellow serviceman murdered her after she threatened to report him for sexually harrassing her. If it weren’t for the efforts of Guillén’s own family, it’s very likely that her murder would have gone unsolved and unprosecuted.

Through constant advocacy and unyielding commitment to get to the bottom of their daughter’s disappearance, Guilen’s death was eventually discovered to be a murder and not a simple disappearance that the Army made it out to be. Honoring our servicewomen continues to be of the utmost importance, and Guillén’s family has now filed a $35 million lawsuit against the Army alleging wrongful death and assault.

The decision to file the lawsuit comes after a new federal ruling came out that allows service members to file claims against the military, something previously thought to be under the Feres Doctrine. The Doctrine explains that servicemembers cannot sue over injuries and damages sustained while in active service. The new ruling, however, explains that “alleged sexual assault [could] not conceivably serve any military purpose” and therefore has opened the doors for victims to come forward.

The ruling comes as a result of retired Col. Kathryn Spletstoser’s sexual assault accusations against four-star general John E. Hyten, who is currently the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It isn’t a new revelation that the life of female servicewomen and veterans is wracked with challenges, and despite that, it’s because of the persistent advocacy that women are now seeing new options for victims to come forward and seek financial retribution for their suffering.

It remains to be seen how additional cases and advocacy continue to change the culture of the military for women, but at least for the Guillén family, their daughter’s untimely death won’t ever be without a higher purpose.

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