New York (Web Desk): Amy Johnson loved the physical challenges and camaraderie of boot camp and had dreamed of spending her whole career in the Marine Corps, serving her country and fighting abroad wherever necessary.
But her military life is already over, at 23, after a catalogue of sexual aggression by her Marine Corps peers both in person and online that foreshadowed this week’s revelations that some marines shared naked photographs of female colleagues, veterans and other women on a secret Facebook page called “Marines United” .
Now the former lieutenant corporal is wondering if images of her appeared on that Facebook page, which according to an internal Marine Corps document was patronised by 30,000 current and former male marines.
The page was exposed at the weekend for posting photographs of unwitting female marines, some naked, with derogatory and violent sexual language alongside, news which brought swift condemnation from the military and the announcement of a criminal investigation.
But this is only the latest instance where female marines have been abused online through covert use of social media. “Marines United is a more recent thing, over the past year or so,” Johnson told the Guardian using a pseudonym. “But before that my picture was put on three other similar private Facebook pages, without my knowledge or consent, calling me a liar about having been raped in the military and calling me a cum dumpster and other awful things,” she said, referring to an alleged rape by a corporal she reported at age 18.
Experts pointed out that such online abuse has long been known about by senior figures in the military. “Abuse of women on social media has been a pervasive issue in the marines for some time, but their leaders have not made any serious effort to address it or discipline offenders,” said Sara Darehshori, a senior counsel at campaign group Human Rights Watch and co-author of a 2015 report by HRW and advocacy group Protect Our Defenders on sexual assault and retaliation in the military.
After that report, the Department of Defence insisted it was already trying hard to address problems of sexual assault and harassment across the military.
The US Marine Corps (USMC) has the lowest proportion of women across the US military services, at just 7pc, compared with 14pc in the army, but a high level of sexual assault.
The victim who spoke to the Guardian appeared under the pseudonym Amy Johnson in that 2015 report, and asked the Guardian to withhold her true identity out of safety concerns.
“Previous Facebook pages kept getting pulled down because of complaints from people like myself — that’s why they then created Marines United and made it more restricted,” said Johnson. “I don’t know if I was on Marines United — I’m not on Facebook any more since all the trouble I had in 2014,” she said.
Marines United was revealed over the weekend by USMC veteran Thomas Brennan.
This news first appeared in The Guardian.