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Revenge Porn Isn't Explicitly Prohibited in the Military

Mar 16 2017 7:21 PM
Revenge Porn Isn't Explicitly Prohibited in the Military

Photo by Alexey Kuzma via Stocksy

The horrifying Marine naked photo scandal reveals a massive gap in military law—and a culture of rampant and unchecked sexual harassment.

The Marine nude photo scandal, which now appears to stretch across other military branches as well, has exposed a "massive gap" in military law, according to a California lawmaker determined to redress the problem: Currently, revenge porn is not illegal for service members.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a ranking member on the House Armed Service's Military Personnel Subcommittee, announced today her intention to file the Servicemembers Intimate Privacy Protection Act (SIPPA), which would prohibit military personnel from sharing explicit photos without the consent of those depicted in the images. Currently, Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice bans the viewing and recording of explicit images where the depicted has not given consent and has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in a locker room; however, the statute does not address photos that were taken with consent but shared without it.

Watch now: Inside the Torturous Fight to End Revenge Porn

"I am furious, I am saddened, and I am frustrated by how we've gotten to this point," Speier said during a press conference today. "The utter lack of respect shown to women in the military who put their lives on the line, just like their male colleagues, to defend our country and then are treated so shallow is absolutely outrageous. The complete failure of the military leadership to address this ongoing abuse is, in my view, something that has to be addressed."

Kate Hendricks Thomas, who serves on the board of directors for Service Women's Action Network, says that the response has been encouraging since news first surfaced of the Facebook group Marines United's Google Drive, reportedly containing hundreds of images of women. "Charging perpetrators and ensuring that commands actually believe that such behavior is contrary to good order and discipline are both important, related considerations," she tells Broadly. While she says she believes the military "is already uniquely equipped to adjudicate non-consensual photo sharing... more specific legislation would encourage charges brought against cyber-harassers to stick, ensure commands would prosecute in order to be in compliance with clear law, and send a strong message of zero-tolerance for the behavior throughout the culture of each service branch."

During a hearing on Tuesday, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told a group of senators, including Speier, "This issue of denigration of women, objectification of women, misogyny—however you want to articulate it—or just bad behavior, is tied to the way that some group of male Marines look at women in the Marine Corps. I think we can fix that."

The complete failure of the military leadership to address this ongoing abuse is, in my view, something that has to be addressed.

Nancy Duff Campbell, the co-president of the National Women's Law Center, says one way to do that is to "make women full partners in the Marine Corps."

"The fact that [the Marine Corps. has] gender-segregated training, the fact that they have the lowest percentage of women of all the services, the fact that they've resisted integrating women into all their units, and even now that they've been ordered to do so, are moving very slowly in doing that," she tells Broadly, "all of these things contribute to a sense that women are different from men... and are people who can easily be turned into sex objects."

In an effort to address the unchecked behavior online, the Marine Corps. enacted new social media guidelines on Wednesday, clarifying that social media sexual harassment would be punishable by the same standards as other forms of sexual harassment.

But, as the Department of Defense's Annual Report on Sexual Violence and Harassment at the Military Service Academies suggests, misogynistic attitudes within the military are deep-rooted, beginning as early as the start of training. According to the report's findings, even though the number of complaints were down, almost half of female cadets and midshipmen reported experiencing sexual harassment in the past academic year. (Even more disturbing is the discovery that sexual assault rates have also increased 33 percent since the last survey.)

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"We have, for some time, argued that the military needs to pay much more attention to sexual harassment, both as an issue in itself and because it's often part of a continuum that leads to sexual assault," Campbell says. "With the attention that's been given in recent years to sexual assault, we think the military hasn't looked closely enough at sexual harassment, beginning at training for enlisted, in the academies themselves, and in officer training."

"We have been told again and again by military women that sexual harassment is a widespread problem," she continues, "and yet DoD has very few personnel dedicated to addressing sexual harassment and has not given it near the amount of resources as it's given to sexual assault."

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