Viral Video Strikes Sexual Harassment in Marine Corps to Forefront

WASHINGTON — Simply minutes earlier than his first information convention as protection secretary on Friday, Lloyd J. Austin III discovered himself watching an emotional video that specified by stark phrases the navy’s stumbling response to sexual harassment and assault within the ranks.

A visibly distraught feminine Marine, seated in a automobile, described how her superiors had been dealing with her case. Within the video, which lit up TikTok and Twitter on Thursday and Friday, and was broadly disseminated amongst girls’s veterans teams, the Marine mentioned she had simply came upon {that a} commanding basic had determined that the individual she recognized as having harassed her would stay within the Corps.

Wiping away tears, the Marine mentioned her remedy by her superiors was why girls within the navy died by suicide.

Few specifics of the case have emerged, however the Marine Corps hurried to assemble an official response. “We’re conscious of the video of the Marine in misery,” the Corps mentioned in an announcement on Twitter on Friday.

However whereas the assertion insisted that the Marine Corps took “all allegations of misconduct severely,” and that commanders had taken actions to make sure the Marine was protected, it didn’t go into element in regards to the commanding basic’s alleged determination to maintain an accused perpetrator on the job.

One other assertion, from Capt. Angelica A. Sposato with the Corps’ 2nd Marine Expeditionary Pressure in Camp Lejeune, N.C., mentioned that the video “particularly refers to an allegation of misconduct relating to the wrongful appropriation and distribution of non-public info.” The “present administrative separation course of for the accused perpetrator talked about within the video is ongoing,” Captain Sposato mentioned.

Mr. Austin, for his half, mentioned he discovered the video “deeply disturbing,” including that he had requested his employees for extra info.

In 2019, the Protection Division discovered, there have been 7,825 sexual assault studies involving service members as victims, a 3 p.c improve over 2018. From 2018 to 2019, the conviction charge for instances was unchanged.

Quickly after Mr. Austin took the helm on the Pentagon final month, he ordered a overview of how the Protection Division has been dealing with sexual assault instances. However that difficulty has been a matter of congressional debate for over a decade.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault within the navy say the Pentagon wants to vary the best way such instances are dealt with — by taking management over them out of the palms of commanders who typically know each the victims and the perpetrators and assigning them to navy prosecutors with no connection to the accused. However such an overhaul would want approval by Congress.

Within the video, the feminine Marine’s misery cuts straight to the center of the argument these in assist of fixing the system have been making, that navy commanders typically enable their relationships with the accused to have an effect on their decision-making.

Navy leaders have lengthy resisted such a change, and most members of Congress have taken their cues from these in uniform. However a number of elements have shifted in recent times. Most notably, President Biden was a vocal proponent of those adjustments whereas working for president.

“I had an actual run-in with one of many members of the Joint Chiefs within the cupboard room on the problem,” Mr. Biden mentioned final 12 months at a fund-raiser. Mr. Austin has additionally indicated that he wouldn’t reject the change out of hand, saying that it must be studied.

A latest report in regards to the tradition of Fort Hood, the big Military base in Texas the place a feminine soldier was killed final 12 months, has additionally been influential. An Military report after her dying discovered a “permissive setting for sexual assault and sexual harassment,” and quite a few leaders on the bottom had been relieved of their duties consequently.

Some senators from each events who as soon as rejected such a change have mentioned they’re now extra open to it. And a few of the most vociferous opponents are now not in Congress, and have been changed by members who’re extra open to the change.

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