Over the weekend, a Facebook group called Marines United was exposed for sharing thousands of images of nude photos of female Marines, many of which were taken or shared without their knowledge. The male-exclusive group, which had nearly 30,000 members before Facebook shut it down at the request of the USMC Monday morning, did not accept females or anyone who was not a Marine, a Fleet Navy Corpsman, or a British Royal Marine to join. The community also reportedly shared a communal database on a Google Drive account which categorized women in the Marines by name, rank, and branch of service.
While the subject of sexual assault in the military is nothing new, the latest scandal coming to light has brought the conversation back to the forefront and has inspired some victims to rise up and speak out about the ongoing sexual harassment they’ve been subjected to while serving. American Military News spoke to some of these women who now feel compelled to vocalize their opinions and share their stories.
Erika Butner is a 23-year-old former Radio Operator who left the service in 2015.
“Surely, this scandal has never been a new incident within the military, but I am glad it is finally getting the recognition it deserves,” Butner told American Military News. “As a rape survivor, I can tell you that this exact behavior of sexualizing and objectifying women is why so much sexual harassment runs unchecked in the Corps. It’s become so normalized in the military that women just have to deal with it alone.”
She went on to say while the latest news has implored some victimized women to speak out, those who do are subjected to backlash.
“The multiple people speaking out about it are receiving threats and backlash about it, and that’s why victims won’t come forward, to begin with. I think the ‘boys will be boys’ excuse needs to stop, along with the victim blaming because it normalizes aggression and gives these people an excuse to justify their behavior. I applaud everyone who was a part of bringing this scandal to light, because now some young female lance corporal will see this and know she can speak up for herself.”
Butner reinforced the fact that she would not back down from speaking out, regardless of negative response she might experience.
“I will never stop speaking out against this for as long as I live,” she continued. “Even if they had naked photos of me, the only thing I would be shameful about is being silent.”
American Military News also spoke to a second woman, who is currently on active duty and wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from her unit.
“The sexual harassment is a large part of the many reason I have chosen not to extend my career with the Marines,” she told American Military News. “My father was a Marine, and I was always taught that there was this brotherhood, this sisterhood that would protect you from this kind of thing. But it isn’t true, and I feel betrayed.”
When asked if she felt that there was a real possibility that she would be sexually assaulted she said there was.
“Yes, I do think so,” she said. “It’s scary that this is a reality for women. I know so many women who spoke out and used their real name, and the threats they are getting are scary. They’re worried.”
The woman added that her image has been shared across the Marine United Facebook community and that it has yet to stop.
“I was posted multiple times on Marines United,” she continued. “I was posted as recently as last week. It still hasn’t stopped. I have urged other women to come forward, to speak to NCIS, and to make sure the guys perpetrating these acts are held accountable by the military.”
American Military News reached out to HQ Marine Corps for comment, but they did not respond in time for publication.
Editor’s Note: This piece has been edited to reflect American Military News’ current editorial standards.