Ernst-McCaskill Fix to Military Justice Code to Guard Against ‘revenge porn’ Set to Become Law

Senators’ bipartisan provision passes Senate as part of annual defense bill; Senators, who worked together to address campus sexual violence, pushed to make such conduct a standard offense across services

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan fix to military law from U.S. Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa and Claire McCaskill of Missouri to better guard against “revenge porn” by making such conduct a standard offense across the military—following the Marines United scandal earlier this year—is set to become law as part of the annual defense bill. The sweeping legislation was approved by the Senate 89-8 and now heads to the President’s desk.

“The disgusting online activity of certain servicemembers uncovered earlier this year is simply unacceptable," said Senator Ernst, a combat veteran. “The PRIVATE Act makes it clear that sexual assault, or harassment of any kind, will not be tolerated within our military. This legislation holds servicemembers accountable for their actions, and encourages all servicemembers to conduct themselves with integrity and respect. I am pleased that this legislation was included in the FY2018 NDAA so that we can continue to change the culture surrounding sexual assault, not only in our military, but society as a whole.”

“Whether it’s in the barracks or on the internet, degradation and intimidation of our servicemembers is a serious crime that threatens good order and discipline, and we’ve got to give our military the tools it needs to treat it that way,” said McCaskill, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and a former courtroom prosecutor. “This will enable us to better go after these bad actors and ensure justice for victims of these exploitative crimes.”

Ernst and McCaskill have also teamed up with a bipartisan group of colleagues to address sexual violence on college campuses with the Campus Accountability and Safety Act—legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses by protecting students, promoting equity, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.

Earlier this year, an investigative journalist and Marine veteran brought to light a series of nude posts of female service members online in the Facebook group “Marines United” – in which Active Duty and Reserve service members posted degrading comments and shared nude photos of fellow service members online. Additional nude photo sharing sites were also uncovered, and reports suggest the horrific activity was carried out by members in each service branch.

In spite of this scandal, The Department of Defense’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military showed a continuation of the trend demonstrated since an historic overhaul of the military justice system—a further drop in incidents of sexual violence, combined with an increased willingness of victims to come forward.

The report shows a nearly 27 percent decrease in incidents of sexual assault and an increase in the number of victims coming forward to report crimes. The Pentagon’s report also estimated in 2016, 14,900 servicemembers experienced a sexual assault, down 27 percent from approximately 20,300 in 2014. The report also showed a 1.5 percent increase in incident reporting from 2015 to 2016, with 6,172 reports filed last year.

The last Fiscal Year Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, for 2014, which measured both reporting and incidents, showed that incidents of unwanted sexual contact dropped by 29 percent from 2012 to 2014. The total number of reports (restricted and unrestricted) went up 11 percent from 2013 to 2014, and up 70 percent from 2012.