by Jillian Atelsek
The United States Marines list “honor” as one of their three core values, defined on their website as “a code of personal integrity [that] guides those who do the right thing when no one is looking.”
Recently, however, hundreds of male Marines were found to have violated this code after the discovery of a secret Facebook group used to leak and share nude photos of female servicewomen without consent.
The closed Facebook group, which has since been deleted, was titled Marines United. It had over 30,000 followers and was restricted to male Marines and Marine veterans, according to a March 5 report by The Center for Investigative Reporting. The report also stated that since Jan. 30, more than 24 women whose photographs were shared on the page have been identified by full name, rank and station. Many of these women are currently on active duty.
The photos posted on the Marines United Facebook page received thousands of obscene comments from members of the group, some of which went so far as to suggest or advocate sexual assault and rape of the women pictured.
While it goes without saying that the vulgar, offensive and disrespectful activities on the Marines United Facebook page are not representative of the majority of men who serve in the armed forces, the story is emblematic of many systemic problems.
The fallout from the Marines United revelations have received widespread media attention in the past week, but the issue of sexual harassment and assault in the military is nothing new. According to a 2016 report, one in four women in the military and one in 14 men in the military face severe or persistent sexual harassment or gender discrimination. On average, over 20,000 members each year are victims of sexual violence.
Perhaps one of the most striking statistics from this report is that nearly half of the victims were dissatisfied with the way their cases were handled by the officers in their chain of command.
What does it say about gender relations in America, many are asking, if women who give up everything to risk their lives for this country cannot expect a decent amount of respect for their human dignity in return?
On March 10, Secretary of Defense James Mattis released a public statement condemning the actions of the members of the Marines United page.
“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory,” the statement said. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”
The Corps are expected to update their social media rules and regulations following these events, but whether or not the broader issue of sexual violence in the military will continue to be substantively discussed remains to be seen.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of WikiCommons.
Jillian Atelsek is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.