Updated: July 07, 2020 06:07 PM
Created: July 07, 2020 10:37 AM
Tuesday, the Minnesota National Guard released the results of a review of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) programs.
The review found that, from 2014 through 2019, the National Guard received 112 reports of sexual assault.
Of those, 61 cases were reported as unrestricted, which triggers an investigation, while the remaining 51 were reported as restricted, which provides victims with services and confidentiality without triggering an investigation.
Of the 61 unrestricted cases, 44 involved military members as both the victim and the perpetrator, and of those 44 cases, which were all referred to local law enforcement, nine resulted in charges. Four of those remain open cases.
“Over the past year, we’ve done a deep dive on what’s going well in our organization and what needs to be improved,” said Brig. Gen. Sandy Best, deputy adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. “I don’t think we’re perfect but I do think being transparent with this kind of information shows that we are very proactive and serious about this.”
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Board found:
— The SAPR and SHARP programs meet the intent of current guidance and policies but the guidance and policies need to be better formed for the National Guard's mission.
— Standardizing knowledge management across the organization is critical, and SAPR/SHARP information should be easily accessible to all members by using civilian resources to ensure proper reporting and support assets are readily available and understandable.
— Training needs to be expanded and reframed, and leaders at different levels need the same basic training while commanders and first-line leaders need expanded training specific to their roles to better support victims.
— Better communication is needed with victims.
— Timeliness of the investigation process needs to be improved.
— The MN Military Code of Justice (MCMJ) and other statues need to be enhanced and updated to remove barriers to enforcement.
— Culture and climate within the National Guard regarding sexual assault, harassment and gender parity need to improve.
— The organization should search out opportunities to influence discussion surrounding SAPR/SHARP policies at local, state and federal levels.
"In short, we must do better. As leaders, we are responsible when our formations tolerate the type of toxic attitudes and behaviors that leave room for sexual harassment and assault," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General. "Our units are a direct reflection of who we are and what we are willing to accept. We must stand together to protect our people."
Jensen said he's already directed state senior leaders to meet with units to discuss the findings and importance of the issue.
Meanwhile, last year, 5 INVESTIGATES found a high ranking commander in the Minnesota National Guard targeted and "exploited" female soldiers directly under his command for sex and then was allowed to retire with an honorable discharge. Military documents obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES showed that pattern of sexual misconduct dated back nearly a decade.
"We need to do a better job of preventing sexual assaults from happening,” said Minnesota National Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinator John Thompson. “Taking care of our number one resource, which is our people, that’s the number one takeaway for me.”
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