LOS ANGELES (CN) – Two women whose personal photos ended up on a secret Marine Facebook group that’s now the subject of a criminal probe have called for a Marine Corps General to allow the women victimized by the site to meet him in person.
Former U.S. Marine Erika Butner said at an afternoon press conference that members of the Marines United Facebook page had shared a photo of her without her consent. A friend told Butner about the site in August 2016. Because of the posting, another Marine asked if anyone could share naked photos of Butner.
“We will not be silenced,” Butner said. “As a rape survivor, I can tell you that this exact behavior leads to normalization of sexual harassment and even sexual violence.”
In January 2017, Butner said she contacted Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Google and told them about a cloud drive containing explicit images of women from military services. The information included names, ranks and where the women are stationed. Butner said that she knew that some of the women on the drive did not want their photos or information shared.
Butner, a former radio operator, returned to civilian status in June 2016 after four years of active duty. She noted that several women who had come forward had faced a “backlash” or threats.
“Victim blaming and the excuse that some are giving that ‘boys will be boys’ needs to stop. It is an excuse to justify the perpetrators’ behavior and normalizes aggression toward women. As a Marine Corps veteran, I am disheartened and disgusted with this scandal,” Butner said.
She added that she would like to sit down with General Robert Neller to talk about how the Marines can “promote more respect for each other and to make our suggestions for change.”
“We encourage all service members who believe they are victims of Marines United to pursue any avenues that they feel are necessary to seek justice,” Marine Capt. Ryan Alvis said in an email.
Active duty Marine Marisa Woytek joined Butner at the press conference, which took place at Los Angeles discrimination attorney Gloria Allred’s office. Although Woytek did not speak, she had released a prepared statement about how the Facebook group had posted her photos.
“Although my photos showed me fully clothed and appropriately dressed, comments were posted by some individuals who viewed my photos and comments were made regarding sexual violence,” Woytek said.
A naval criminal investigation began after news broke over the weekend that active duty and former Marines had shared thousands of photos of female Marines online. Images on Marines United – which has 30,000 members – included photos of naked and semi-naked women from the Marine Corps, some of which were stolen or copied from Instagram accounts. Male members of the group posted sexually aggressive and derogatory comments.
According to the New York Times, one photo that received such attention showed a female corporal bent over from behind.
“One comment was that ‘women Marines are not real Marines’ and another comment suggested they should be killed by ‘friendly fire,” Allred said.
General Neller issued a video statement on Tuesday that condemned the actions of marines on the site.
“Right now we all need to be focused on getting better, becoming more lethal, and working day and night to stay ahead of potential adversaries,” Neller said, “not hiding on social media participating in or being aware of actions that are disrespectful and harmful to other Marines. It’s embarrassing to our corps, to our families and to the nation.”
He urged victims of harassment on social media to report it to their superior officers, chaplain or Victim Legal Counsel.
Allred said she was disgusted by the comments she had read.
“This information which women had not authorized led to the denigration and victimization of women who serve our country, and resulted in their being targeted and contacted by strangers with predatory intentions and actions,” she said.
Allred said she would like Neller to discuss the issue with the victims. She declined to comment on the content of the photos stored on the site.
As of Wednesday Marines were still swapping images on the site, according to reports.