After online photo scandal, female Marines unite to start a campaign of support

by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
The Washington Post

A new site called "Female Marines United campaign" wants to raise money to support women service members after hundreds of nude photos of female marines were posted to a secret Facebook group called "Marines United."

The fund, which is asking for $1 per supporter, will "show that there are more people out there who support women in the armed forces and demand respect for all women who have met the standards asked of them in service of their country," said Justine Elena, 31, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves who served in Afghanistan from 2010-2011, and started the gofundme campaign on Wednesday.

"Women shouldn't have to survive both being deployed to war, being away from your family and loved ones, and then come home and have to also survive the brothers in arms that we were told would always look out for our us," she said." That's what's so painful."

Donations will go toward identified charities like Headstrong, which she said have been of great service to women in the military and veterans who continue to struggle with mental health issues and the military-to-civilian transition.

"We will continue to identify additional organizations in the coming days," she wrote on the gofundme page, which hopes to raise $30,000.

The Defense Department said this week it is investigating reports on the Facebook page that shared the nude photos, which was taken down but had a membership of 30,000 active-duty and retired male Marines, Navy Corpsman and British Royal Marines.

The site was said to be "for men only" and contained threatening and salacious comments often about rape along with the intimate photos of women service members and veterans in various states of undress, according to media reports.

The women in the nude photographs were identified by their full names and ranks. Both active duty and veteran women's photos were shared online without their consent.

The existence of the shared drive was first reported through the website Reveal, in conjunction with the War Horse military news website.

Since the scandal, women veterans have taken to Facebook to post stories about everything from everyday slights to sexual assault while serving in the military (known as military sexual trauma), and said they planned for more activism in coming days. Women are the fastest growing population in the military, but many say they still struggle to be treated with respect, despite having served next to men in nearly every aspect of daily military life, including combat situations.

"This sort of behavior marginalizes us more as we continue to train to not only serve our country, but protect what we rightfully earned," Elena said. "It's the title of U.S. Marine that's supposed to bond us together despite all those things, but clearly there are some who think otherwise."

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