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State Lawmakers Moving Forward With a Package of Bills Strengthening the Process Regarding Sexual Misconduct in National Guard

Friday, June 2nd, 2023 -- 12:01 PM

(By Anya van Wagtendonk, Wisconsin Public Radio) Four years after the Wisconsin National Guard was the subject of a scathing federal investigation into how it handles allegations of sexual misconduct, state lawmakers are moving forward with a package of bills they say will strengthen those processes.

According to Anya van Wagtendonk with the Wisconsin Public Radio, in 2019, a report from the federal National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations detailed numerous shortcomings in how the Wisconsin National Guard reports, investigates and punishes allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

Shortly after the report's release, the head of Wisconsin's National Guard resigned. Last year, a legislative study committee chaired by Rep. Tony Kurtz, R-Wonowoc, developed a package of bills aimed at bringing state military code for sexual misconduct investigations into compliance with federal code.

"The study committee identified a number of areas in which legislation will complement the guard's continuing efforts to ensure that the men and women who volunteer to serve our state and nation are able to do so in an environment that takes their safety seriously," Kurtz told lawmakers at a public hearing Wednesday.

The bills would amend the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice to bring it into alignment with the federal Uniform Code of Military Justice, establish a case management system for misconduct cases within the Department of Military Affairs and require the Guard's top leader to report annually on the topic to the governor and state Legislature.

The changes to state military code would include redefining what constitutes sexual assault to include sexual acts committed through threat or intimidation. It would also clarify which types of offenses are grounds for court-martialing, create a specific process for sexual harassment and remove certain gender-specific language from the code.

It would also add an affirmative right for survivors "to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and fairness."

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