Marines victimized by nude photo sharing 'will not be silenced'
Posted March 8
LOS ANGELES — A former Marine and an active-duty Marine came forward Wednesday to say photographs taken of them were secretly posted online without their consent along with nude photos of other servicewomen that have led to threatening replies and a military investigation.
It comes as another former Marine who helped found a victims' group said the social media postings have been going on for more than a decade but superiors ignored complaints from female service members. Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, has condemned the photo sharing and urged victims to report abuse.
Active-duty Marine Marisa Woytek and former Marine Erika Butner appeared at a news conference in Los Angeles to applaud the investigation into sharing of naked photos of women on a secret Facebook page called "Marines United."
"In August 2016, I learned a photo of me was posted on Marine United Facebook page without my consent," said Butner. "As a result of that posting, a former Marine posted a comment, asking if anyone had naked photos of me."
Woytek and Butner each said they learned that clothed photos were posted without their consent.
Butner, 23, who served for four years before leaving the Marines in 2016, said she contacted investigators in January and told them there was an online storage drive that contained "indecent photos of women from all military services, organized by name, rank and even where they were stationed."
"As a Marine Corps veteran, I am disheartened and disgusted with this scandal," she said.
The women's lawyer, Gloria Allred, said there may be hundreds of such postings and that they prompted pornographic and violent replies, including some recommending that female Marines be raped or shot.
In many cases, the site listed names, rank and duty stations of the female Marines and female troops from other branches of the military.
"Multiple victims recently began speaking out about those unauthorized posts, but they received threats and backlash in an attempt to quiet them. We will not be silenced," Butner siad.
Allred said no longer will female victims of the social media site stay in hiding.
"Women who are U.S. Marines have earned and deserve respect and trust," Allred said.
Butner and Allred said some women who have spoken out have been attacked in what they called "victim shaming."
Meanwhile, a former Marine, Erin Kirk-Cuomo, said servicewomen have been reporting websites like "Marines United" for more than 10 years but were ignored. She said the issue was "laughed off by military leadership and members as harmless, expected, or invited."
"This behavior is not harmless, and we demand an end to it," said Kirk-Cuomo, who recently co-founded a group, Not In My Marine Corps, dedicated to sharing incidents of sexual assault and harassment.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the photo sharing. It's not clear how many active-duty Marines and other service members were involved or are under investigation.
However, an internal Marine Corps document obtained by The Associated Press said a former Marine maintained the Google Drive where the photos were shared, and that it had a following of about 30,000.
Associated Press Pentagon reporter Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.