The scandalous revelation last week that a private Facebook group for U.S. Marines was used to proliferate nude photos of female military service members appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Business Insider reports that the originally reported group of nearly 30,000 members — Marines United — was not the only outlet where military members solicited and shared nude and sexual images of their female colleagues without their consent. Another site, AnonIB, is used for the same purpose, only its reach spreads throughout the U.S. military, not just the Marine Corps. Business Insider also notes that AnonIB’s members not only share nude photos of female service members, they frequently identify the women “by name or where they are stationed.”
The Marines have promised an investigation, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is considering pursuing felony charges against the perpetrators, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has scheduled a hearing on the matter before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week. But will any of this matter?
Military members and veterans are rightly revered in this country for their willingness to put their lives on the line in service of the nation. Unfortunately, that reverence — and our political leaders desire to cloak themselves in the military’s reflected glory — too often leads to a blind eye being turned on systemic problems requiring urgent attention.
A 2014 study by the RAND Corporation found that almost 5 percent of female military service members were sexually assaulted in the year prior to the study, and that “52 percent of active-component women perceived that they experienced professional or social retaliation after reporting a sexual assault.” 22 percent of active duty women reported being sexually harassed that year, as well.
Few institutions in American life are more preternaturally macho than the military, and even minor changes to titles are resisted as political correctness run amok. But for the military to maintain the honor they demand and generally deserve, each service branch should willfully engage the prevalent issues with sexism and abuse which are rampant throughout the service.
And while no politician wants to be perceived as disrespecting the troops, every legislator from Congress to President Trump should be willing to use this scandal as a launchpad to make it clear that no one — not even the heroes of our armed services — can engage in a massive ring of ritual sexual humiliation of other service members, and have it be excused as “boys will be boys.” The military’s honor requires more than that.