December 10, 2019 — The report released yesterday by National Guard Bureau’s Office Of Complex Investigations (OCI) indicated the Wisconsin National Guard’s programs and systems for handling sexual assault and sexual harassment within its ranks were not compliant with federal law, and in many cases, were “deficient” or “failing.” WCASA is deeply concerned about the survivors whose cases were mishandled by the Wisconsin National Guard and commends Governor Evers for swiftly acting upon the release of the OCI report. As with other instances of system failure regarding sexual assault, it will be critical to implement reforms to prevent this from happening again in the future. To that end, we appreciate Governor Evers directing the Wisconsin National Guard to correct the findings identified in the OCI report and to implement all the report’s 21 recommendations.
With respect to the report’s findings regarding the Wisconsin National Guard’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program, it was disheartening to read that their written policies on sexual assault and sexual harassment are not consistent with federal law, regulations, and policy. Unfortunately, for survivors, this led to instances where their needs and interests were not prioritized by leaders within the National Guard. We also note that the OCI report determined the National Guard does not maintain any Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with any community-based resources to enhance prevention or response efforts. With respect to how other systems respond to survivors, whether it be corrections or campuses, access to community-based resources has been identified as vital to supporting survivors. Community-based resources are confidential, and their sole focus is to advocate for the needs and interests of the survivor, regardless of the system response. WCASA believes the Wisconsin National Guard would do well to partner with existing community-based resources in this state.
The OCI Report also detailed the Wisconsin National Guard’s use of its own internal process for responding to sexual assault that violated Department of Defense (DoD) policy against internal investigations. This flagrant departure from existing policy not only negatively impacted those investigations, but also undoubtedly caused immense harm to survivors. Media reports indicate survivors were encouraged not report to the criminal justice system. When coupled with deficient internal investigations, this undoubtedly led to a lack of accountability for offenders. We echo the report’s recommendation that the National Guard stop utilizing internal investigations.
WCASA appreciates the leadership of both Governor Evers and Senator Tammy Baldwin on this issue, as they called for this report back in March. When systems fail survivors, transparency and accountability are often hallmarks of reform efforts. We think the release of the OCI report and Governor Evers’s Executive Order are important first steps to reforming how the Wisconsin National Guard responds to sexual assault and sexual harassment. WCASA, along with survivors across the state, will be closely watching to see how the National Guard implements these recommendations.
Media Contact: Ian Henderson, 608-257-1516, firstname.lastname@example.org