Investigation finds no evidence linking sexual harassment to SPC Guillen's murder
But finds significant faults with public affairs management and social media engagement
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely my own, and should not be attributed to anyone else
A recently released report of investigation confirmed that SPC Vanessa Guillén's murder had no direct relationship to any sexual harassment or sexual assault. Specifically, the report found "no credible evidence to conclude SPC Robinson [who murdered SPC Guillén and took his own life when confronted by authorities] sexually harassed SPC Guillén or that they had any relationship outside of their work setting."
But don't expect that to change the narrative.
The tragedy of this young Soldier has been abused by unscrupulous people with agendas of their own from the very beginning. As I noted in a prior post, the propaganda machine surrounding SPC Vanessa Guillén's disappearance launched a movement and inspired legislation bearing her name regarding sexual harassment and assault, despite the complete lack of any evidence that these issues were connected to her death. Any SHARP related topics did not enter the picture until the Guillén family hired an attorney, which the report confirms this to have occurred on June 16, 2020. Thereafter, due in large part to publicity generated on social media, SPC Guillen's disappearance became a much higher profile incident and the association with sexual harassment was taken for granted.
It bears mentioning that the report found no fault with the Army's search efforts. Instead, it found plenty of fault with the way publicity surrounding SPC Guillén's disappearance was handled. Specifically:
"[S]ocial media presented a unique challenge… [and] filled a void in command messaging that allowed a negative narrative about Fort Hood and the U.S. Army. Support on social media for the Guillén family was robust, and it overwhelmed Task Force Phantom / Fort Hood capabilities from the onset. An analysis of the social media environment conducted in support of this investigation revealed an uncountered social media-driven negative and erroneous narrative of Fort Hood and the U.S. Army that grew exponentially."
It should also be noted that the report found that SPC Guillén did experience sexual harassment, but she did not make an official report and it did not involve SPC Robinson. There were two incidents; one involved an invitation in Spanish to participate in what she translated to be a "threesome," and the other involved an incident during a field exercise when someone conducting a patrol happened upon her while she was conducting personal hygiene, which SPC Guillén felt was not accidental. There is no evidence to connect these events to SPC Robinson or his motive for murder, which based on SPC Robinson's girlfriend's statement (who is being charged in connection with her role in disposing of the remains), in which she indicated that SPC Robinson was motivated by fear of disclosure of SPC Robinson's relationship with a married woman.
Unlike sexual assault, the Army's criminalization of adultery is not material for viral social media campaigns. So it is unlikely that the actual motive behind the senseless murder and horrific dismembering of SPC Guillén's remains will ever receive any discussion in the mainstream media, who simply took the allegations of sexual harassment for granted and ran with it. On the other hand, the Army's inability to deal with false publicity spreading through viral social media - and consequently influencing mainstream media - will likely continue to be exploited by not only the self-serving activism of those who have no qualms about exploiting a deceased Soldier's name for their own agendas and profit, but also by adversaries who surely took note of this incident as yet another illustration of the ease with which the information environment can be manipulated to achieve a desired result, even contrary to objective facts.
Whatever the merits of the Fort Hood report or critiques of the effectiveness of the SHARP program may be, and whether or not SPC Guillén experienced unrelated events of sexual harassment, it is clear sexual harassment had nothing to do with the murder that became the military's #MeToo moment.
Editor's Note: I do not understand how activists can be "self-serving" on this issue, or how they are profiting. But Wellisch's point about the phenomenon of social media narratives in general seems clearly right.
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