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San Diego women veterans group creates unity as sexual assault in the military is discussed

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 20:47:40-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - As the country waits to hear what happened to missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen, a San Diego group for female veterans is ready to offer support for anyone who needs it.

Related: Army confirms identity of suspect in Vanessa Guillen case who died of self-inflicted gunshot wound

Guillen was last seen April 22, 2020 and while the Army has said there are no signs of sexual assault, her family says otherwise. Now, posts with the tag #IAmVanessaGuillen are circulating online, as people share their own stories of sexual assault in the military.

Billiekai Boughton with the San Diego Women Veterans Network said any conversation like this can bring up hard memories for female veterans. She said while many women have a positive experience in the military, four out of five females report harassment or assault. The goal of her group is to support women through any of this pain. She says this is important in a community like San Diego which has about 26,000 female veterans.

“For those of us who have been in the military and have had negative experiences, this can be a memory (sic) of feeling unsafe,” said Boughton.

The group’s website says the most common request of women veterans in San Diego is to meet other women veterans. Their primary goal is to create a community for female military veterans, while also encouraging community service and policy change, which encourages and embraces the positive traits female vets have to offer.

“Our friends remind us how strong we are. Our friends remind us we’re okay, and we can come together when we’re not,” she said.

Boughton said they also are a bridge for any other resources a woman might need and they can connect people with groups for any help they might need in life.

The veterans crisis hotline is 800-273-8255.