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The Marines Have A Revenge Porn Problem And Top Brass Say “We Need To Do More”

Women Marines reported being victims of revenge porn at a higher rate than their peers in other branches of the military, according to a new Department of Defense report.

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More than 2% of women Marines said a fellow service member posted sexual images of them without their consent in 2016, a rate that's higher than their peers in other branches of the military, according to a new report.

The Department of Defense released the report examining misuse of social media that creates a sexually hostile work environment on Monday. The findings were part of a larger study on sexual assault within the military, the findings of which have been sent to members of Congress.

According to the report, 2.3% of women Marines said someone they worked with "took or shared sexually suggestive pictures or videos of them without their consent." Across the Department of Defense, which includes more than 200,000 women serving active duty, the rate was 1.3%.

"It's a clear indicator that we need to do more," Maj. Clark Carpenter, a Marine Corps spokesman, told BuzzFeed News.

Women Marines also reported a higher rate than the average in one survey of Americans who use the internet, in which 2% said they had experienced their explicit photos being posted without consent.

The Department of Defense study is unique for its focus on revenge porn within the workplace, and comes after an investigation found thousands of nude images of military women had been shared within the Marines United Facebook group. That report prompted multiple investigations and a vow from military leaders to address the problem, which they said affected not just victims, but overall military readiness.

"Our mission requires each of us to rely on each other without hesitation," Navy Rear Admiral Ann Burkhardt said at a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday. "This bond is broken when there's sexual violence or harassment, even worse when this behavior is condoned or ignored."

According to the report, 0.3% of military men were also victims of revenge porn, and men were less likely to report what happened to them.

The report also looked at how revenge porn related to military culture. Victims said they believed sexual harassment was more of an issue than it was two years ago. Victims also said they were less likely to speak up when they saw other social media comments or jokes that "crossed the line."

"This could be due to a fear of being labeled as a troublemaker or a fear of falling victim to such behaviors again," the report states.

In addition to revenge porn, the report asked service members if they'd more generally experienced someone in their workplace sharing or displaying sexually explicit material that made them upset or uncomfortable. Across military branches, 4% of women said they had experienced that, as well as 1.4% of men.

The report covers behavior between July 2015 and July 2016, months before the bombshell revelations about Marines United and other sites that trafficked in military revenge porn. Since then, the Marines updated social media policies and specifically banned distributing sexual images of a person without their consent.

In response to revelations about Marines United, the Corps has made its first priority to offer support and protection to victims, Carpenter said. A task force is also looking at ways to change thinking and behavior among Marines, to prevent similar behavior from happening again.

"Now it's clear it is an attitude that's prevalent in the Corps, a subculture that exists in the Corps," he said.

The report offers a baseline of statistics about the prevalence of revenge porn, Carpenter added, and the Corps hopes to see improvement due to their new policies when the next version comes out in two years.

So far, cases of more than 30 individuals have been by investigators to commanders to be adjudicated. Marines commandant Gen. Robert Neller has also been traveling to speak with commanders and Marines about the Corps' values and what's expected across ranks. Degrading, demeaning, or harassing a fellow Marine runs counter to everything the Marines stand for, Carpenter said.

"This hurts people, and that is simply not acceptable."

Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at claudia.koerner@buzzfeed.com.

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