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IAVA | March 9, 2017

Marine Scandal Is National Embarrassment.  Do Our Women in the Military Have the Leadership They Need?

I’ve spent the last several days struggling with various news reports that exposed and subsequently analyzed the decision of some male Marines to share private and explicit photos of their female colleagues.  This is not only outrageous, but it’s a national embarrassment.  

Our Marines deserve better.  Our women in the military deserve better.  And our national security unfortunately took a big hit when this issue made headlines.  But is this news or merely a revelation?  In a follow-up story by the New York Times, a male Marine was willing to go on the record to say that we shouldn’t be surprised. 

No one is a greater believer in the power of command climate than I, so in addition to the obvious impact a high-profile incident like this has on recruitment and readiness, I’m concerned about whether our troops have the leadership they need at this critical time.  Do they have Commanders and a Commander-in-Chief that tolerate language that objectifies women soldiers, sailors and Marines? Or do their leaders promote a culture that ensures everyone wearing the same uniform gets the same respect? 

Command climate is key, because while the military has bad actors no different than elsewhere in society, we maintain order in part because troops avoid behavior they feel will get punished.  So every Commander or command-group NCO that’s stood silent when the phrases like “barracks whore” were used in conversation should be reflecting this week on how well they’ve served the women who are counting on them for leadership.  

IAVA has proudly been a leader for equality and justice for women veterans and those still in the military.   Our advocacy work and research aims to shed light on the issues facing women servicemembers and veterans, including removing the stigma associated with military sexual assault and trauma.  We persistently put pressure on the President, Congress and all elected leaders to fully recognize and improve services for women veterans.  And we’re fighting for the kind of lasting culture change at the VA and Pentagon that has to start at the top. 

We also have a best-in-class veteran support system that is attuned to the unique needs of women and other populations that are disproportionate in the Post-9/11 generation. If you are a veteran in need help, please reach out to our Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) team at 855-91-RAPID or   

We’ve got your back.  

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