The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has launched an investigation into the suspected distribution of nude photographs of female Marines to military personnel and veterans via a secret Facebook group that promotes sexual violence.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting,
Since Jan. 30, more than two dozen women — many on active duty, including officers and enlisted service members — have been identified by their rank, full name and military duty station in photographs posted and linked to from a private Facebook page.
In one instance, a woman corporal in uniform was followed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina by a fellow Marine, who surreptitiously photographed her as she picked up her gear. Those photographs were posted online in the Facebook group “Marines United,” which has nearly 30,000 followers, drawing dozens of vulgar comments.
The horrifying allegations were first reported by Purple Heart recipient Thomas Brennan, a marine veteran turned journalist for his site the War Horse.
“There were a nefarious few that decided to sexually exploit hundreds of women, and create something that could easily be weaponizable,” Brennan said.
He told the Marine Corps Times that angry users of the page put a “bounty on pictures of my daughter,” adding, “It has been suggested that my wife should be raped as a result of this, and people are openly suggesting I should be killed … Can you imagine being one of the victims?”
Many female Marines were forewarned about their intimate photos floating around online by emails from concerned colleagues, texts from loved ones, and even obscene messages in their inboxes from strangers.
In the wake of these reports, women who have experienced the public shaming first hand have spoken out. “As a Marine Corps veteran, I am disheartened and disgusted with this scandal,” said Erika Butner, who served in the Marines for four years until June and whose photo was posted to a “Marines United” Facebook page without her consent. “Victim blaming and the excuse that some are giving that ‘boys will be boys’ needs to stop,” Butner, 23, added during a news conference Wednesday.
The Marine corps is the smallest military unit with the fewest women. It is difficult to discuss the painful reality for the women violated and the disgrace the behavior of the perpetrators bring upon the entire armed services without simultaneously reprimanding the culture within the organization that breeds this manner of destructive behavior.
The incident has prompted an outcry from Marine leaders, veterans and current officials in favor of an investigation. “A Marine who directly participates in, encourages or condones such actions could also be subjected to criminal proceeding” a Marine Spokesperson said Wednesday.
The highest ranking Marine officer, General Robert Neller though unable to comment on the investigation itself had this to add, “when I hear allegations of Marines degrading their fellow marines I don’t think that is such of true warriors or war fighters.”
This morning the sergeant major Ronald Green addressed these allegations to congress.
The Marine Corps leadership is clearly outraged and deeply disturbed by the allegations at hand but many times before, officials have talked about the Armed Services’ zero tolerance for sexual harassment and the mistreatment of women. Yet according to the annual report the pentagon released last May, the U.S Military received about 6,000 reports of sexual assaults, in 2015 resembling the numbers in 2014, but even still such crimes underreported.
In a letter to the Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, Senator Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who represents New York, wrote “This unacceptable behavior spotlights a culture of disrespect for female service members that undermines good order and discipline in the military and weakens military readiness.”