Dunbar To Leave Wisconsin National Guard Post Amid Critical Report On Sexual Assault Investigations
Updated on Tuesday at 3:47 p.m. CT
The commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, Donald Dunbar, will step down by the end of the year. His departure is related to a critical report from the U.S. National Guard that was released Monday.
Gov. Tony Evers also has signed an executive order directing changes in the Guard's sexual assault and harassment reporting procedures and the way investigations are done. But some question whether the military will reform.
Evers and Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin asked the federal National Guard Bureau to look into claims of sexual assault and retaliation within the Wisconsin National Guard. The six-month probe included 78 in-depth interviews, a review of 1,100 documents and 10 site visits to state military installations.
The findings contend the Guard's policies and practices fail to hold perpetrators accountable and leave survivors unsupported. The report says Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar improperly used internal investigators to probe sexual misconduct complaints. After reading the findings, Evers asked Dunbar to resign.
Ian Henderson, of the Madison-based Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, says Dunbar's departure and other changes are needed.
"It will be important to demonstrate some accountability to survivors, given what has come out about the National Guard's, really a failure to appropriately investigate and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment within its ranks," Henderson told WUWM.
Henderson says the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which has member partners in the Milwaukee area, also likes some planned changes in Guard staffing and policies.
"I think one thing will be for survivors who have already reported is, it looks like the governor is recommending an ombudsman who will review allegations of sexual assault and harassment, and retaliation in the National Guard. That'll be really important for survivors. I think the other piece that's going to be important is reforming the system so this doesn't ever happen again," Henderson said.
Evers has given the Guard 60 days to come up with a corrective action plan and ways to implement 21 recommendations from the federal guard office.
Erin Thornley Parisi, with the Rape Crisis Center in Madison, says Evers is taking positive steps but says some problems are entrenched.
"I think that it's been going on for so long — and I'm talking about in general in the military, not necessarily just the National Guard, and there's just been such an overall culture of protecting perpetrators and re-victimizing survivors through the system — that it's going to take a lot for faith to be restored," Thornley Parisi predicted.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald released a statement about the issue on Tuesday.
"Fixing this will not happen overnight. It is paramount that this type of behavior does not continue in the future," Fitzgerald said in the statement. "I will keep monitoring this issue closely as both the Wisconsin National Guard and National Guard Bureau examine how Wisconsin can fix its system for handling sexual harassment and assault."