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Wisconsin National Guard Sexual Assault, Harassment Policies To Undergo Federal Review

Assessment Comes After Reports Of Misconduct Spanning More Than A Decade

Wisconsin National Guard members standing
Wisconsin National Guard (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Federal authorities will conduct an official review of the sexual assault and harassment policies of the Wisconsin National Guard units in response to allegations of misconduct, Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced Wednesday.

Allegations of misconduct within a Wisconsin Air National Guard unit first surfaced in January, when Baldwin revealed she had already requested the Air Force look into allegations of assault and harassment at Wisconsin’s 115th Fighter Wing, which is based in Madison.

According to her office, Baldwin was contacted by a whistleblower about six alleged incidents of assault and harassment against female members of the 115th Fighter Wing’s Security Forces Squadron between 2002 and 2016.

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The review of the Wisconsin National Guard, which has both Army and Air branches, will proceed as a separate assessment.

The Wisconsin National Guard has received 52 reports of sexual assault between 2013 and 2017, with more than half related to military service, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

Last month, Baldwin and Evers both called for the National Guard review. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, also called for an assessment earlier this year, after being contacted by a female guard member who said she was assaulted in 2014.

In a prepared statement, Baldwin said Wednesday the review will make sure service members are adequately protected.

“The men and women of the Wisconsin National Guard deserve an environment free of sexual harassment and assault, and I believe this impartial outside review of past actions, current protocols, and future improvements is the best way to meet that objective,” she said.

According to a joint statement from the senator and Evers, the assessment will be conducted by the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations over the next several months. It will include review of current policies and practices, site visits and a review of allegations.

Authorities have also set up an email address, nationalguardassessment@wisconsin.gov, for current and former members of the National Guard to share relevant information.

A public report, to be released after the assessment, will include recommendations for preventing future incidents of assault and harassment.

“The bottom line is that our servicemembers deserve to work in an environment that’s free of sexual assault and harassment and the fear they might face retaliation for reporting sexual assault or harassment when it happens,” Evers said in the prepared statement.

The commander of the Wisconsin National Guard has defended its existing policies.

The Wisconsin National Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.