Report illustrates ‘systemic failures’ in handling sexual misconduct at Wisconsin National Guard

Big changes are coming to the Wisconsin National Guard after Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday the general is resigning.

This follows a six-month long investigation into how the guard handles sexual assault reporting, including retaliation.

The governor called for Gen. Don Dunbar’s resignation after this report on the investigation came out.

In 88 pages, it details several ways the Wisconsin National Guard failed sexual assault survivors in just about every stage of the process. Investigators referenced “a number of gaps and deficiencies” in sexual assault prevention programs, including policies that hadn’t been updated since 2013, making them noncompliant with current federal law.

The report out today identifies a lot of issues that @GovEvers wants fixed in the Wisconsin National Guard. Here’s one piece of the investigation I found particularly telling

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) December 10, 2019

Investigators noted the guard usually conducted its own investigations, and often left “victims and others involved in the program with inadequate care and support,” according to the report.

The group of investigators canvassed about 1,600 personnel, conducted 78 in-depth interviews, reviewed more than 1,100 documents and visited 10 military sites throughout Wisconsin. Though most interviews with victims were redacted in the public version of the report, some anecdotes were left in.
In one, investigators said the victim was treated like the subject of an investigation despite evidence she may have been a victim of sexual assault.

“The victim went through nearly three and a half years of various investigations and proceedings regarding her allegations and was flagged due to her involvement in the matter,” investigators wrote. “Frustrated with the lack of support she received, she ultimately decided to leave the military as soon as her term of service expired. Her case unresolved, she left without traditional favorable military recognition.”

Multiple lawmakers issued statements supporting the victims and the investigation.

“The failure of leadership, wrongdoing, and lack of accountability that has been uncovered demands change at the Wisconsin National Guard,” wrote U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Evers had already delivered on the call, issuing an executive order that demands implementation of the 21 suggestions investigators gave the Guard, including a corrective action plan that gets protocol up to date with the laws.

Evers also told the Guard to establish an office that would handle sexual assault and harassment allegations and claims of retaliation.

“Our service members deserve to be safe and supported while carrying out their important mission,” he wrote in a statement.

Dunbar was briefed on the report on Saturday, and he said he and his team are reviewing the demands.

“We intend to implement all of the recommendations in the report,” he said. “Sexual misconduct has no place in the Wisconsin National Guard.”

Dunbar will stay in his role until the end of the year. Evers said Brigadier General Gary L. Ebben will serve as interim adjutant general while a replacement is found.

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