WOODRIDGE, Ill. — Leaders of a U.S. Army Reserve unit that controls thousands of soldiers across the western United States have mishandled at least two sexual assault complaints by not referring them for outside investigation, according to victims, their advocate and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Amy Braley Franck, a civilian victim advocate with the 416th Theater Engineer Command, provided the AP with documents that show the command launched internal investigations into at least two complaints rather than refer them to the Army's criminal investigation division as required by military policy and federal law. In a third case, they placed an alleged victim on a firing range with someone she had accused of sexual harassment, causing her to fear for her safety.
Commanders also have failed to hold monthly sexual assault management meetings, as required by DOD policy since 2006. And they ran the company without a sexual assault response coordinator for nearly a year and suspended Braley Franck after she alerted the Army to the internal investigations, she said.
"I can't with a clear conscience say, 'Oh, yeah, report your sexual assault. We'll take care of you," Braley Franck said.
The 416th's spokesman, Jason Proseus, said Army Reserve leaders take sexual misconduct seriously. He declined further comment, saying "the matter" was under investigation. He didn't explain what matter was under investigation or by whom. The Army Reserve Strategic Communications' chief spokesman, Lt. Col. Simon Flake, said the reserve doesn't want to compromise the investigation or influence the outcome by commenting further.
The Illinois-based 416th Theater Engineer Command provides technical and engineering support for U.S. military forces. It serves as headquarters for nearly 11,000 soldiers in 26 states west of the Mississippi River.
Braley Franck said she has discovered multiple sexual assault administrative shortcomings and policy violations since she joined the 416th in February 2019 as a victim advocate. Her duties include supporting victims and connecting them with services.
She said the division went 10 months without a sexual assault response coordinator. Such coordinators ensure victims receive services such as medical care and counseling, help victims navigate the military criminal justice system and oversee victim advocates.
No one held a sexual assault management meeting during her tenure until this month, even though the DOD has required such meetings to be held monthly since 2006 to ensure a coordinated response and that victims are protected and can access services.
She said she has learned of at least two instances in which 416th commanders improperly initiated internal sexual assault investigations.