'I Am Vanessa Guillen,' Netflix's latest doc, shows a family working for justice after a tragedy

'We had no choice but to go and fight for legislation under my sister's name'

I Am Vanessa Guillen Netflix feature image; Guillen family on the steps of congress in washington dc
(Image credit: Netflix)

I Am Vanessa Guillen, Netflix's latest true crime documentary, is a nontraditional take on the genre. 

While most projects are hyper-focused on the crime in question, I Am Vanessa Guillen hones in on the aftermath of the tragedy—and preventing something like it from happening again.

"It has a bigger mission," director Christy Wegener revealed to NBC News about the November Netflix release. "We focused on the fact that this family was going through one of the hardest periods of their life, and they turned it into a movement to help the greater good."

The 20-year old Mexican-American soldier was stationed at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, and when her family was unable to reach her in April 2020, they became incredibly fearful, and understandably so. There was no trace of the young woman for two months, and social media hashtags and headlines abounded, hopeful that the search would lead to her safe return. 

Unfortunately, her dismembered body was found two months later near the premises. It was reported that she was abused by her superior, and when officials attempted to arrest Specialist Aaron Robinson in connection with the case, he had died by suicide.

"She's in the army, she's supposed to be safe there," we hear a relative say in the documentary trailer.

An Army investigation was later conducted, and it uncovered that the young woman's allegations were true. Even though it resulted in changes to the lineup at Fort Hood, it was not enough for the soldier's loved ones. After the horrific experience, the Guillen family refused to stay silent. 

"We had no choice but to go and fight for legislation under my sister's name," we hear family states in the trailer.

'I Am Vanessa Guillen' Netflix doc

Although the documentary provides insight into the case itself, viewers also get a glimpse of the Guillen's taking action.

In order to ensure that the appropriate parties were held accountable, they worked towards getting support for the Vanessa Guillen Act. Parts of it were included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed in December 2021. 

According to NBC News, parts of the Vanessa Guillen Act "includes criminalizing sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, improving how certain officials respond to sex-related offenses through independent investigations and removing the decision to prosecute sexual misconduct cases from service members’ chains of command."

Following Guillen's death, there was no choice but to make a statement. Women in the military revealed that they, too, were experiencing similar assault issues, and Guillen was the one who got the conversation going. It wasn't uncommon to see #IAmVanessaGuillen to pop up on service members' feeds, revealing that something was indeed quite wrong within the system.  

"This is not a Democratic, Republican issue. This is not a race issue, this is a human issue, so it should be everyone's issue," Guillen's sister said at a rally.

I Am Vanessa Guillen is now streaming on Netflix. Other new true crime on Netflix this month includes Orgasm Inc: The Story of OneTaste, State of Alabama vs. Brittany Smith and Capturing the Killer Nurse.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.