The Indiana National Guard is at the center of a huge domestic violence lawsuit brought forth by Shannon Dickerson. In the suit, Dickerson claims that the Guard failed to investigate her domestic violence allegations against her then-husband, Lt. Col. Brian Dickerson, whom she would eventually divorce. The court filing specifically names Guard and Adjutant General Martin Umbarger as a defendant, which is tricky. That's because Lt. Col. Dickerson was Umbarger's top full-time legal adviser at the time the abuse allegedly took place.
That is a tough position for Dickerson to be in. She claims that there were many fail safes that were put into place to protect her from Lt. Col. Dickerson that Umbarger and his division completely ignored.
"The Indiana National Guard at no time took Shannon's allegations of abuse seriously," the suit says. "There is no evidence that the allegations were properly evaluated, assessed and/or timely reviewed." If she tried to get help elsewhere within the National Guard, she would be passed from commander to commander, who would always give her the run around until she just gave up. This goes against the kind of help that military commanders are supposed to provide alleged victims according to Department of Defense instructions posted on the Guard's website.
The most egregious of the injuries — at least of the physical abuse — came in late 2008 when Shannon Dickerson had accused her ex-husband of beating her in December 2008 and twisting her foot until it snapped like "when you break a turkey leg off at Thanksgiving." It was after this event that Dickerson knew that she had to leave her husband if she was going to make it out alive. She thought that the divorce would be the worst part of the situation. Alas, the military only enabled the behavior she was trying to get away from.
"It seems in this case, anyway you slice it, that official protocols were not followed," said Rep. Christina Hale, an Indianapolis Democrat who is drafting domestic violence legislation. "It seems unconscionable that it took 18 months in order for the Guard to follow their own stated protocols regarding domestic violence. A lot of bad things can happen in 18 months."
For his part, Umbarger has said the Guard acted appropriately and "takes every allegation of misconduct seriously." Seperately, the Pentagon also is reviewing the actions of another Indiana Guard attorney who inadvertently sent an email to a different woman suggesting she take her harassment claim to Dr. Phil, according to the Indy Star.
The cases are still ongoing, and we'll get you more information as it comes in.
National Guard faces lawsuit over handling of domestic abuse allegation (Indy Star)
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