The top US Marine on Tuesday addressed the investigation into Corps members sharing nude photos of female Marines without their consent.
Male service members have been accused of sharing the images along with death threats and racist memes in a so-called “private” Facebook group of more than 30,000 members. Last week, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that more than two dozen women on active duty have been identified by their full name and military duty station in photographs posted on the Facebook page.
“The Marine Corps I have served for over 40 years has a problem,” General Robert Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
The general asked each of the 15,000 active-duty female Marines to trust him while he leads the investigation into the scandal. “I know what you do for our Corps, for our team and to contribute,” he said, he then addressed the Male service members. “I need you to ask yourself how much more do the females of our Corps have to do to be accepted.”
But some members of the Senate Armed Services Committee criticised the general’s testimony, the Associated Press reports, saying more needs to be done enough to combat sexual assault and harassment amid years of complaints.
“This committee has heard these kinds of statements before,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, said at the hearing. “It’s hard to believe something is really going to be done. Why should we believe it’s going to be different this time than it has in the past?”
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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, echoed her colleague’s concerns.
“When you say to us it’s got to be different, that rings hollow,” she said. “If we can’t crack Facebook, how are we supposed to be able to confront Russian aggression and cyber-hacking throughout our military? 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 acting Navy secretary, Sean Stackley, said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the incident and that its tip line has received more than 50 complaints.
“This is a bell-ringer,” he said, according to the AP. “We’re not going to go backwards.”
In the past, lawmakers have said that strengthening “revenge pornography” laws would be illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
CNN obtained one of the messages shared in the Marines United Facebook group, an anonymous member taunted the investigation:
“It would be hilarious if one of these FBI or [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] f***s found their wife on here.”