BANGOR — Substantiated sexual assault cases have spiked in the Maine National Guard, whose leaders have largely been dismissive of victims and lenient toward perpetrators over the years, according to a Bangor Daily News report.

Despite nationwide scandals that led to the removal of military leaders, the Maine National Guard has done little to address the problems since 2013, when lawmakers asked the Guard for a report on sexual assault in its ranks, the newspaper reported.

Lawmakers will get another chance to address the problem when the Maine National Guard produces an updated report and recommendations in the new year.

It’s critically important that personnel feel they can safely report sexual assault and harassment so the state can get a sense of the scope of the problem, said state Rep. Morgan Rielly, D-Westbrook.

An investigation by the newspaper documented many instances of sexual abuse and harassment, with victims describing a predatory culture that has gone unchecked.

This year, at least two Maine guard members are facing criminal charges amid allegations that they sexually assaulted other soldiers. In September, Bret Chapman of Walpole was indicted in Arizona on charges that he sexually abused a soldier while deployed to the Mexican border.

Yet no soldier has received a dishonorable discharge from the Maine Army National Guard in at least 20 years for any reason, officials told the newspaper.

“How can you go to war with people that don’t have your back?” said a woman who reported being assaulted by a Maine Air National Guard pilot who was mentoring her. The woman is due to be medically discharged this month for trauma, the newspaper said. The pilot voluntarily resigned but denied the accusation.

The Maine National Guard contends that the rise in cases can be attributed to greater awareness and willingness of soldiers to come forward, Maj. Carl Lamb, a spokesperson, told the newspaper.

“The Maine Army National Guard takes seriously its responsibility to root out sexual assault and sexual harassment within its ranks and to send the clear message to all our soldiers that inappropriate behavior of any kind is not and will not be tolerated,” he said.

The fact that soldiers are still facing the same issues around sexual assault and harassment that were identified decades ago is a policy failure, said Jennifer Norris, a retired member of the Maine Air National Guard who testified before Congress in 2013 about surviving sexual assaults and retaliation while serving.

“It breaks my heart these women have gone through the exact same thing I went through back in 1996,” she said.

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