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News | April 15, 2024

Wisconsin Guard vows to forge forward with change during sexual assault awareness and prevention month

By Vaughn R. Larson

A top leader in the Wisconsin National Guard said he has seen growth in how the organization deals with sexual misconduct.

“In 2019 we had the Office of Complex Investigation assessment, and that gave us a roadmap to get us to where we are today,” said Brig. Gen. David May, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Air, during an April 2 ceremony at Joint Force Headquarters to launch Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. “And we’ve been steadily making progress every single month.”

The Defense Secretary’s Independent Review Commission provided specific guidance along with resources to rebuild the Wisconsin National Guard’s sexual assault prevention and response program. May said he is proud of how the program has continued to develop and improve.

“There’s still work to be done,” May said. “I don’t see anybody just settling for where we’re at, which is great. But the key now is to make sure that these improvements go all the way down to the bottom of the organization — everybody has a role in this.”

Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, issued a proclamation declaring the Wisconsin National Guard’s theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month as “Forging Forward with Change.” This aligns with the Defense Department’s theme of “Step Forward to Prevent, Report, Advocate.”

The proclamation stated that the Wisconsin National Guard is forging forward by “cultivating change, wherein the Airmen, Soldiers, civilian employees and families of the Wisconsin National Guard pledge to support healthy, respectful and safe relationships” that can reduce sexual assault occurrences. The proclamation also stated the goal for sexual violence victims and survivors to feel empowered and safe to report and seek services.

“We want to know if there’s something to be reported,” May said. “We absolutely want to know, because we want to do something about it.”

May acknowledged that trust is required for victims to report instances of sexual misconduct.

“Building that trust, that process of building the right amount of trust to get there, is key,” May said. “That’s a long haul — that’s a long, sustained effort to get everyone to that point.”

But May reiterated his belief that the organization is making progress in this area.

“The goal is zero harassments and assaults,” May said. “That is absolutely the goal. And I think we’ll get there.”