(CNN) – Three different Marine women, all with a common thread. Their pictures, along with thousands of others, turned up on private Facebook groups like Marines United, captioned with degrading and sexually violent comments.
All claim they reported it years ago, but were either blamed or rebuffed.
Liz, a former Marine said, “I don’t feel ashamed sending that picture to that person who I had loved so much. But to see my picture out like that and all these judging eyes, oh look at her, she’s probably a whore, slut whatever, shaming me for something that has absolutely nothing to do with them, it’s unacceptable.”
Liz served in the Marines for ten years. During her 2010 deployment in Afghanistan, she found out her then marine boyfriend circulated a nude photo of her. “My supervisor could tell that I was on the verge of tears. But he told me that if I go forward and report this then I would get into trouble because I would be seen as a distributor of pornography.”
Even harmless pictures in uniform weren’t off limits. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who spent 6 years in the Marines, had a picture taken of her and her team after they finished a training event in 2013. Fitzgerald was so proud, she put it on her private Facebook page.
Within 24 hours, it had made its way to one of Facebook’s private group pages and the comments poured in.
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Fitzgerald said, “Talking about who they’d rather sleep with in the photo, that female Marines were a joke. It was an awful feeling to be publicly humiliated by people we served with by marines who are supposed to be our brothers in arms.”
She didn’t even have a chance to report it before being called in by her female superiors.
Fitzgerald said, “We were told it was our fault. That we shouldn’t have taken the photo, that it shouldn’t have been on social media and basically because we took the photo, this is what we get.”
Mary, currently serving in the marines for 11 years, is afraid about the backlash for speaking out and asked to have her name and identity hidden. Unbeknownst to her, a Marine took a picture of her in uniform, from behind, at a shooting range
Mary said, “That picture got posted on the internet, FB, and it got blasted with comments.”
Comments about her appearance, and that she was flirting with other marines. Mary figured out who took the picture and reported him. “They told me there’s nothing they could do about it because he wasn’t part of our unit.”
Leaving Mary to worry how it would affect her career. “Unfortunately, females in the Marine Corp have a harder time maintaining their reputation even if they have a clean record.”
All of these women believe the top brass in the Marines has been aware of the problem of lewd pictures for a long time, but turned a blind eye. Now it’s become so explosive, the Marines’ top general told a congressional committee, this time, it’s got to be different.
General Robert Neller said, “What’s it going to take for you to accept these Marines as Marines? I’m committed to making this right and I need all Marines equally committed.”
That commitment begins with every Marine signing their name, acknowledging the Marines’ new social media policy.
A policy, a Marine spokesman told CNN, comes with stiff punishments for violators. There’s also a new reporting structure in place for alleged victims.