07:29 GMT25 January 2021
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    Reports of sexual assaults across US military branches jolted up a whopping 10 percent in 2017, a year in which the United States Marine Corps was also rocked by the exposure of a massive soldier nude photo sharing ring.

    The military-wide increase in reported sexual assaults was in part fueled by a 15 percent increase in reports from the Marine Corps, officials familiar with the data told Stars and Stripes. In March 2017, a 30,000-person online Facebook group called Marines United was exposed as a secret hub for sharing naked photographs of women in the armed services. Some 131,000 nude photos were circulated through the group.

    NCIS identified 700 active Marines and 150 Marines on reserve who had participated in the group, but just 55 Marines have been disciplined for their involvement, as NCIS determined that most of the photographs were selfies or were posed for and then voluntarily shared even though they were circulated largely without consent. However, NCIS updated its policies for the Navy and the Marines after the scandal to include a ban of nude photo sharing if the offending soldier "reasonably should know that the depicted person did not consent," or lacks a legal justification. 

    But the nude photo scandal likely doesn't have any bearing on the uptick in reported sexual assaults, as it doesn't fall under the military's definition of sexual assault, but is more consistent with the military's definition of sexual harassment.

    Two Marine commanders were fired in August 2017 after failing to foster respectful and appropriate behavior toward the women in their units. Their sackings were not related to the photograph scandal.

    On March 12, 2018, yet another cache of illicit photographs was discovered. Marine Corps Captain Christopher Harrison announced at a press conference. The 267 photos were contained in a Dropbox link entitled "Hoes Hoin."

    Both the US Navy and the Air Force saw increases greater than 9 percent in reported sexual assaults in 2017, while the Army saw an 8 percent rise. The overall surge of 10 percent is the biggest increase the Department of Defense has recorded since 2015. Overall, 6,769 cases were reported. 

    The data does not paint a complete picture, however. Sexual assaults are an underreported crime, defense officials have argued, and so an uptick in reports could signify a larger degree of faith in the military's justice system. On the other hand, with the viral #MeToo campaign, women in military service may simply feel more empowered to report their abuse.

    At least 32 percent of women in the US military have report having been sexually assaulted, and 80 percent have been sexually harassed.


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    military abuse, sexual assault, US Navy, US Army, Marine Corps, US military
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