The way sexual assault allegations, and those who reported them, were handled at the Wisconsin National Guard reached all the way to the top of the organization today when its leader, Adjutant General Donald Dunbar resigned at the request of Gov. Tony Evers.
Evers signed Executive Order #62, calling for sweeping changes in how sexual assault and sexual harassment is reported and investigated, as well as establishing related accountability measures. The changes ordered by Evers are those recommended in a federal report done by the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations (OCI), which was requested by Evers and by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Baldwin responded in support of Evers’ executive order and calling for “true justice for the survivors of sexual assault” and that accountability for those who committed the crimes.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the service and sacrifice of our Wisconsin National Guard service members and I have worked for over a year to do right by courageous whistleblowers and brave survivors of sexual assault who came forward and contacted my office,” said Baldwin in a release responding to the investigation.
“Our Wisconsin National Guard service members deserve leadership of unmatched integrity and a work environment free of sexual assault, harassment and the fear of retaliation. This National Guard Bureau report makes clear they have received neither. The failure of leadership, wrongdoing, and lack of accountability that has been uncovered demands change at the Wisconsin National Guard, including new leadership and implementing all of the report’s recommendations on how best to prevent sexual assault and harassment, and confront it with accountability when it occurs.”
Dunbar agreed to resign at the end of the month, and he will be replaced, following protocol by Brigadier General Gary Ebben as a permanent replacement is sought. Evers made it clear other drastic changes must occur to remedy the situation, releasing 21 recommendations on how to “correct the failings.” Several of the key pieces of Evers’ plan of action are included below.
Redactions were made by the National Guard Bureau to protect the identity of survivors and whistleblowers, as well and other guard personnel, but the report, which Evers and Baldwin requested in March, is here and appendices to the report here.
Attorney General Josh Kaul said his department will work with Evers on additional actions that are appropriate given the OCI report.
“Sexual assault is a violent crime that must always be taken seriously. … No survivor of sexual assault should be denied justice because of an outdated and insufficient system.”
Due to concerns about safety and retaliation, the report contains redactions made by the National Guard Bureau to protect the identity of survivors, whistleblowers, and other Guard personnel.
Sources for further reporting and for help needed as this story — which could be traumatizing for survivors unfolds — include:
- National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) operated in partnership with more than 1,000 sexual assault service providers throughout the country, including Wisconsin.
- The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which provides listings of sexual assault service providers throughout Wisconsin.
- To report new criminal misconduct, contact local law enforcement and Evers has also dedicated an email address to the matter: [email protected].
- If you are being retaliated against by the Wisconsin National Guard, you can file a complaint with the Department of Defense’s Inspector General by calling 1-800-424-9098 or sending an email to [email protected]
Executive Order #62, signed Dec. 9 by Evers, does the following according to his office:
- Requires that the Wisconsin National Guard submit, within 60 days of the date of this order, a corrective action plan for approval by the Governor. The corrective action plan shall detail how the Wisconsin National Guard will implement each of the 21 recommendations in the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations’ Report and identify strategies to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other sexual misconduct, including best practices from other states’ national guards.
- Requires that a general officer appointed by the National Guard Bureau and approved by the Governor shall oversee the implementation of the corrective action plan. The appointed general officer shall report monthly to the Governor regarding progress towards implementing each of the Report’s recommendations. Implementation of the corrective action plan shall be completed by September 1, 2020.
- Requires that, beginning September 1, 2020, the Wisconsin National Guard undergo review by the National Guard Bureau to re-assess sexual assault and sexual harassment reporting procedures, investigation protocols, and accountability measures, and evaluate the implementation of each of the Report’s recommendations.
- Establishes an office of ombudsman that shall assist survivors and complainants in the review of allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and retaliation within the Wisconsin National Guard.
- The office of ombudsman shall provide quarterly reports to the Governor on such matters. Executive Order #62 also requires the Wisconsin National Guard to fully accommodate the ombudsman, including providing full access to personnel and records deemed necessary by the office of ombudsman, in accordance with law and policy.