The U.S. Marine Cops has launched an official investigation into the alleged sharing of nude photos of female Marines to military service members as part of a “perverse” social media network promoting sexual violence, according to a new report.
The Marine Corps Times, an independent publication discussing issues involving the service, published a report Sunday, March 5, detailing the damning scandal, in which nude photos of female Marines and other women were distributed via a private Facebook group with nearly 30,000 members. The group solicited lewd pictures of female service members, some of which displayed the women’s names, rank and duty stations, according to the newspaper.
The bombshell revelation was first reported by The War Horse and published by Reveal, an arm of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The article detailed one incident where a female Marine in uniform was followed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., by a fellow Marine who secretly photographed her while she picked up her gear. The photographs were posted on Facebook group “Marines United,” where service members penned disgustingly obscene comments.
For instance, one user suggested that the service member sneaking the photos should “take her out back and pound her out,” while others encouraged more than vaginal intercourse, the publication reported.
“And butthole. And throat,” one user wrote. “And ears. Both of them.”
“Video it, though … for science,” they added.
According to Reveal, senior officials at the Marine Corps headquarters verified that incident, along with the distribution of photos of other active-duty and veteran women through the private page and links to a shared Google Drive.
Some of the racy images appeared to have been taken by service women themselves, who shared the photos in confidence with a fellow service member, only to have them posted online and gawked at without their consent. Dozens of subfolders on the drive also included pictures of women in various stages of undress, the publication reported.
Military officials say they’re still unsure of how many personnel may be involved in the photo sharing ring.
“We need to be brutally honest with ourselves and each other: This behavior hurts fellow Marines, family members and civilians. It is a direct attack on our ethos and legacy,” Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green, the most senior enlisted Marine on active duty, wrote in an emailed statement. “It is inconsistent with our core values and it impedes our ability to perform our mission.”
Senior U.S. lawmakers including Republican Mac Thornberry of Texas, who’s also chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, and Democrat Adam Smith of Washington State, also pressed the Marine Corps to fully investigate the matter, according to Reuters. Thornberry called the incident “degrading behavior” that is “entirely unacceptable.”
Officials from the Marine Corps Naval Criminal Investigative Service have divulged little information on the disturbing situation, as the investigation is still ongoing.
“All I can say at this point is NCIS is investigating those who are posting explicit photos without the permission of the person in the photos, which is potentially a felony,” NCIS Public Affairs official Ed Buice told Atlanta Black Star via e-mail. “Beyond that, NCIS does not discuss the details of ongoing investigations.”
The Washington Post reported on Sunday, March 5, that the person responsible for posting the graphic photos, as well as the names and duty stations of the service women, was a former Marine working for a defense contractor. He has since been relieved of his duties.
Marine Lance Cpl. Marisa Woytek said fellow social media users alerted her to a number of hi-jacked photos taken from her Instagram account that were posted to the Marines United group without her consent. She told The Washington Post that many of the comments posted to her photos alluded to rape and sexual assault.
“Even if I could, I’m never re-enlisting,” Woytek said. “Being sexually harassed online ruined the Marine Corps for me and the experience.”
The nude photo scandal has been quite the black eye for the Marine Corps, who some critics argue has been lax in dealing with past incidents of sexual assault/harassment. Rape and other sexual crimes also are largely underreported in the service. An annual report released by the Pentagon in May 2016 showed that the U.S. military received close to 6,000 reports of sexual assault the previous year, but researchers suspect more sexual crimes occurred than were reported.
Senior Marine Corps officials have since circulated a 10-page document outlining the allegations and backed talking points about the service’s effort to investigate them, the Marine Corps Times reported.
“The Marine Corps is deeply concerned about allegations regarding the derogatory online comments and sharing of salacious photographs in a closed website,” a quote featured in the document read. “This behavior destroys morale, erodes trust and degrades the individual. The Marine Corps does not condone this sort of behavior, which undermines our core values.”