The U.S. Defense Department is investigating reports that some Marines shared nude and semi-naked pictures of their female colleagues on Facebook.
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.
Sgt Maj Ronald Green, top enlisted Marine said that it is a direct attack “on our ethos and legacy.” In a written statement, he stated that “this behavior hurts fellow Marines, family members, and civilians.”
An investigation has also been launched by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
The group had some 30,000 active and retired male marries. A non-profit news organization run by Thomas Brenna, himself a Marine veteran, The War House uncovered the activities of the group.
According to The War House report, members of the Marines United posted a link to a shared folder in Google Drive in January. The shared folder contained pictures of female Marines in various stages of undress. Along with the pictures of female military members, there were some other photographs of unidentified women. The members encouraged other Marines to find and upload the photos and identified the women by their names, ranks, and units.
Following a Marine Corps’ request, the Google Drive folder has been deleted, and Facebook and Google have closed social media accounts of the members who were posting the images.
The image sharing activity began in the same month the first U.S. Marine infantry started receiving women.
Some of the pictures are thought to have been taken surreptitiously, while others are believed to have been taken by consent, but posted without permission.
The War House spoke to five women whose pictures were leaked; two of them said that their ex-partners might have leaked the images, while some showed concern that their own accounts might have been hacked.
One of the victims, Lance Corporal Marisa Woytek said that the images were taken from her Instagram account and posted on Marines United page without her consent. She told The Washington Post that she was alerted by someone to the usage, and she found the comments alluding to sexual assault and rape.
“Even if I could, I’m never reenlisting. Being sexually harassed online ruined the Marine Corps for me, and the experience.”
The spokesman for Marine Corps Capt Ryan E. Alvis said:
“We are thankful that Thomas Brennan, a Marine veteran, notified the Marine Corps and NCIS about what he witnessed on the Marines United page. It allowed us to take immediate action to have the explicit photos taken down and to prepare to support potential victims.”