EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The commander of the Wisconsin National Guard agrees to resign following a federal investigation that found the Guard deliberately mishandled sexual assault complaints.
The investigation brings to light the issue of sexual assault within the military. In 2018 nearly 21,000 service members were sexually assaulted or raped. This includes both men and women. According to national human rights organization Protect Our Defenders, the rate of sexual violence within the us military jumped by almost 40% from 2016 to 2018 and for women the rate increased by more than 50% to the highest level since 2006.
Amanda Schumacher, Sexual Assault Program Director with the Family Support Center in Eau Claire says sexual violence in the military or military sexual trauma is very common. “This is something that has been brought to light in recent years," she says.
Earlier this year, Gov. Tony Evers and Sen. Tammy Baldwin called for a federal investigation after whistleblowers contacted their offices about alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases within the Wisconsin National Guard.
The National Guard Bureau reviewed how Wisconsin commanders report, investigate and prosecute sexual assaults. Following that review Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar announced the Guard would make changes but shortly after Gov. Evers requested Dunbar's resignation. Dunbar agreed to step down at the end of the month after serving as leader since 2007. "Victims have been empowered to really come forward and talk more openly about their experiences which has driven demand for a response from the military," said Schumacher.
She says this is important because many victims of sexual violence are often afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation, especially those in the military.
WEAU 13 News reached out to representatives with the Wisconsin National Guard but our interview requests were declined.
Governor Evers statement regarding the issue: "Our service members deserve to be safe and supported while carrying out their important mission."
Senator Baldwin also commented saying "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.”