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Review says Maine National Guard complied with sexual assault policies, no investigation of culture

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Troy R. Bennett
Bangor Daily News
A female soldier in the Maine Army National Guard is leaving her dreams of a military career after being sexually assaulted by another guard member. She wants the guard to improve its handling of sexual assault and harassment cases to protect female soldiers.

A national review finds that the Maine National Guard has generally complied with military policies on sexual assault prevention and response efforts. But it suggested Maine hire a full-time advocate to track pending sexual assault investigations and make certain training and written policies more clear, among other recommendations.

The National Guard Bureau completed a three-day review of Maine's programs during a visit in June. It did not explore the state's culture, which sexual assault victims have said is deeply embedded in misogyny, harassment and retaliation.

In a statement, Adjutant Gen. Douglas Farnham said the Maine National Guard will implement the recommendations. The guard said it also recently hired its first-ever victim advocate coordinator to help recruit and train additional support staff.

Farnham asked for the national review earlier this year, after reporting by the Bangor Daily News revealed several instances of sexual assault and harassment within the guard's ranks, which victims say were mishandled.

Survivors spent hours detailing their experiences to the state legislature back in March. Their testimony prompted new legislation that called for the latest review from the National Guard Bureau, as well as a separate audit of how law enforcement agencies and prosecutors investigated sexual assault and harassment allegations by Maine National Guard members against their colleagues. Maine's attorney general is responsible for that review.

The latest findings also come as a newly-formed state advisory council is exploring the Maine National Guard's prevention and response efforts. The council's recommendations are due to the governor by Dec. 1.