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The military may soon consider revenge porn a criminal act

That’s if Congress gets its way.

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Outside of a US Federal court.
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Since March, the US military has been rocked by scandals involving US military service members posting unsolicited nude photos of female troops online. Now, Congress is trying to do something about it.

The Military Times reports that the House and the Senate have added provisions to the annual defense spending bill that would update the uniform code of military justice, which lists criminal offenses under military law, to include criminal charges for anyone who “knowingly and wrongfully broadcasts or distributes an intimate visual image of a private area of another person” without permission, or “harm substantially the depicted person with respect to that person’s health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships.”

The new provisions, supported by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), come in the wake of the Marines United scandal, in which current and former Marines shared private, sexually explicit photos of women service members including pictures of a woman in a US Marine Corps uniform participating in oral sex, explicit screenshots from private Snapchat conversations, and even pictures of a nude, unconscious female.

As horrifying as these materials are, they formed only a small portion of the thousands of online files with similar content — and it’s a trend that won’t stop.

Revenge porn in the military keeps happening

On March 4, the War Horse reported that thousands of male Marines had set up a private Facebook group called “Marines United” dedicated to posting unsolicited, often derogatory sexual materials of female Marines online. Three days later, Marine leadership responded.

“When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don’t think such behavior is that of true warriors or war fighters,” Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said in a statement. “If changes need to be made, they will be made.”

But five months later, it seemed not much had changed. On July 12, the Daily Beast reported that instead of shutting down the group completely, Marines United members merely shifted their debauchery over to an online group named “Mike Uniform” (that’s how you say “MU” — i.e., “Marines United” — using the military’s phonetic alphabet). It was there that a new Dropbox drive filled with 3,863 photos and videos — including some featuring former Marine Kally Wayne, who has been a vocal critic of this practice since it came to light in March — was discovered.

Some perpetrators received reprimands. In July, one Marine admitted to posting explicit content online. He was confined for 10 days, lost his military rank and was released from the military. The military dismissed a minimum of two others and at least 29 others were also reprimanded — but kept their jobs.

Certain members of Congress don’t think that’s punishment enough, and will soon hope to make any online sexual abuse illegal.

The legislation “makes it clear that sexual assault, or harassment of any kind, will not be tolerated within our military,” Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a female combat veteran, told the Military Times. “This legislation holds service members accountable for their actions, and encourages all service members to conduct themselves with integrity and respect.”

While it’s doubtful that this legislation by Congress will be enough to completely stop this sort of behavior in the military, it at least shows that legislators are taking the problem seriously.