Top U.S. Marines have vowed that action will be taken against service members accountable for sharing nude photos of their female colleagues.
While testifying before a Senate committee, General Robert Neller vowed to change the Marine culture.
A Navy investigation was triggered last week after reports emerged that showed current, and former Marines were involved in sharing photos of female colleagues on Facebook and message boards.
The female members of Senate Panel, however, were not impressed by the promises.
A New York Democrat, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said that the military had not done enough to address the longstanding allegations of sexual assault and harassment. She also pointed out a similar scandal in 2013 of online exploitation by the Marines.
This is what she said to the Senate Armed Service Committee on Tuesday:
“When you say to us it’s got to be different, that rings hollow. It is a serious problem when we have members of our military denigrating female Marines who will give their life for this country in the way they have with no response from leadership.”
The photos were shared within a members-only group accompanied by highly aggressive and vulgar sexual messages. The Group called Marines United has now been closed down. The group had some 30,000 active and retired male Marines.
Mr. Neller, along with the acting Navy Secretary, Sean Stackley, said that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) was investigating the scandal.
He also agreed that the latest revelations might hinder female recruitment, but vowed to make changes in the Marine Corps culture.
While addressing the concerns of Senator Gillibrand, Mr. Neller said:
“I’m the commandant. I own this, and we are going to have to, you know, you’ve heard it before, but we’re going to have to change how we see ourselves and how we do, how we treat each other. That’s a lame answer, but ma’am that’s the best I can tell you right now. We’ve got to change, and that’s on me.”
Among the five military services, Marine Corps have the lowest percentage of female members; they only make up about 7%-8% of all Marines.
Mr. Neller said that only a “small number” of victims had come forward and appealed that more women should step forward to help with the investigation.
Mr. Stackley said that the investigators have received around 50 calls and are actively looking into more websites. He described the latest scandal as a “bell-ringer” and vowed that “we’re not going to go backwards.”
Both the top Marines also addressed the legal challenges of prosecuting active service members for their online behavior, which could be protected under free speech and privacy laws.
Lawmakers suggested that the regulations should be altered to make so-called “revenge pornography” illegal under military code.