The U.S. Marine Corps needs to punish whoever posted and disseminated photos of women in compromising moments but the military must also realize its relaxing of rules regarding sexual conduct was a huge mistake, according to a top researcher on military personnel.
For weeks, the Marines have been responding to revelations that photos of military women in showers and other racy images were posted on social media pages frequented by active duty members and veterans.
On Tuesday, Marine Corps leaders were grilled about the problem and the response during an appearance on Capitol Hill.
Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly says tough penalties for those responsible for humiliating the women are certainly in order.
“The commandant can and should say to the Senate, ‘We will prosecute cases to the extent of the law.’ If the controlling legal authority sees there is evidence, that evidence will be taken forward, and there will be punishment according to the law. The problem is an absence of a law that would ban this sort of behavior,'” said Donnelly.
She says some the the images were apparently “sexting” type messages, in which women willingly sent boyfriends explicit photos of themselves, only to see the pictures get posted to social media sites once the relationship went sour, but that doesn’t make the actions of the men any less heinous.
“A woman who does that puts herself at greater risk. This doesn’t mean that she should be exploited or that he should betray her. All I’m saying is, when you take that risk, then you elevate the chances that you will be the victim of betrayal,” said Donnelly.
While she expects the Marines to prosecute, Donnelly does not believe the strong USMC opposition to social engineering policies like allowing women to perform ground combat roles or reversing LGBT policies deserves blame for what happened to the women.
“That is the worst, most preposterous spin of all. You know why? The Marines asked that this not happen. The Marines asked for exceptions. The Marines also asked that the 1993 law (banning gays and lesbians from military service) be repealed. They were overruled in both cases by the politicians,” said Donnelly.
That repeal happened in 2010, when the so called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was scrapped by Congress, along with the actual law that laid down rules of conduct.
“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ never was a law. That was a regulation. Congress repealed that but they also repealed the underlying law. That law used to say that disciplinary requirements applied on base and off base. That was taken away by Congress,” said Donnelly.
In addition to the public scandal, Donnelly says the latest numbers on sexual assaults within the military continue a disturbing rise.
“The numbers are still going up, the numbers of actual cases. And, get this, the number of male-on-male sexual assaults also are continuing to increase. In 2010, that percentage was under 10 percent. Last time I checked, it was 17 percent. Now, it’s north of 20 percent. What is going on here?” asked Donnelly.
Donnelly believes that open a Pandora’s Box of sexual activity in the U.S. military.
“The military is now a libertine institution. There are very few limitations on sexual conduct other than being consensual,” said Donnelly. “If any kind of sexual expression in the military is now OK, how do you draw the lines? There are no lines anymore.”
In the Senate hearings Tuesday, lawmakers demanded answers from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller. Donnelly was not impressed.
“The members of the Senate who looked at the commandant of the Marine Corps, almost yelled at him, Sen. (Kirsten) Gillibrand, ‘How did this happen? Who is accountable?'” said Donnelly.
“Excuse me, Sen. Gillibrand, you are accountable or should be held accountable because you voted to repeal the 1993 law that spelled out the fact that disciplinary regulations apply on base and off base,” said Donnelly.
Donnelly says the photo scandal and the rise in assaults are all due to politicians foisting a social agenda upon the military.
“The results of eight years of Barack Obama are now coming forward. This nude picture scandal is only a small part of it,” said Donnelly.