Minnesota National Guard releases results of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response board

To the citizens of Minnesota,

Last year, the Minnesota National Guard reported its sexual assault numbers publicly for the first time. This was not a heroic gesture, but a necessary one to shed light on a dark topic. In conjunction with that announcement, we held three town hall meetings to confront sexual assault within our force. We spent time talking about sexual assault, our program, and heard directly from a sexual assault survivor within our organization. I promised then that this was just the beginning of our efforts to combat sexual assault in our ranks. We developed a strategy to assess our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) programs, command climate and culture, and the investigatory process currently in place. My goal is to improve and strengthen our culture, to validate practices that are successful, improve or replace practices that are not, and work with law makers to remove barriers to enforcement.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Board found that:

  • Our SAPR/SHARP programs meet the intent of current guidance and policies, but that the guidance and policies need to be better formed for the National Guard’s unique mission.
  • Standardizing knowledge management across the organization is critical. SAPR/SHARP information should be easily accessible by all members using civilian resources to ensure proper reporting and support assets are readily available and understandable.
  • Training needs to be expanded and reframed. Leaders at different levels need the same basic training, but commanders and first-line leaders need expanded training specific to their roles regarding sexual assault to better support victims/survivors.
  • We must do a better job in communicating with victim/survivors. They deserve to be informed regularly on their case and should never feel forgotten or uninformed.
  • We must improve the timeliness of the investigation process.
  • We need to enhance and update the Minnesota Military Code of Justice (MCMJ) and other statutes to remove barriers to enforcement.
  • We should continue the positive trend in improving the culture and climate within the organization regarding sexual assault, harassment and gender parity.
  • We should search out opportunities to influence the discussion surrounding SAPR/SHARP policies at the local, state and federal level.

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. Our units are a direct reflection of who are and what we are willing to accept. We must stand together to protect our people.

This year I have directed state senior leaders to meet with units down to the company/squadron level to discuss our findings and the importance of this issue. These meetings are intended to open the discussion at all levels to end sexual assault within our ranks, and to support a climate where those who have been harmed by sexual assault can feel supported and safe to come forward.

My commitment to you is to provide our Soldiers and Airmen with the support they need to ensure that no member of the Minnesota National Guard ever faces the fear of becoming a victim of sexual assault on our watch. Our people are our most valuable assets. We must empower them. We are only at our strongest when we all stand together. When we stand together, there is nothing we cannot overcome.

– Jon A. Jensen, Major General, Minnesota National Guard, Adjutant General

To view the report in its entirety, visit https://minnesotanationalguard.ng.mil/documents/2020/07/mnng-2020-sapr-report-final.pdf/.

For more information about the Minnesota National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, visit https://minnesotanationalguard.ng.mil/sharp/.

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