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Lawmaker to Introduce Bill Criminalizing Military 'Revenge Porn'

FILE -- Rep. Jackie Speier talks to reporters during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol December 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FILE -- Rep. Jackie Speier talks to reporters during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol December 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A California lawmaker plans to announce legislation tomorrow that would make it a crime for service members to share nude photos and other intimate images without consent, her office announced Wednesday.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat, will introduce the bill Thursday in a Capitol Hill press conference, joined by high-profile women's rights attorney Gloria Allred and Marine veteran Erika Butner, a self-identified victim of nonconsensual photo sharing.

The move comes after the Marine Corps was rocked earlier this month by revelations that active-duty Marines were implicated in a Facebook page, Marines United, that circulated a link to a folder of nude and compromising images of female service members.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the page, which has since been shut down, and Marine Corps officials have said that those found guilty of participation in the illicit activities face prosecution under general misconduct orders and an order forbidding "indecent broadcasting" of images.

But in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, lawmakers queried Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on whether the current statutes within the Uniform Code of Military Justice were enough to deal satisfactorily with the alleged crimes.

"That's something we're going to get into with this task force, if there are provisions within UCMJ that may need to be more specific about this particular type of potential offense," Neller told Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, referring to a task force the Marine Corps organized this month to determine next steps in the wake of the scandal.

Asked by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, if a code specifically addressing "revenge porn" was called for, Neller said it might be, though it wouldn't address the whole problem.

"I think that would be helpful in the accountability process," he said. "But again, some of these pictures of these women, they were fully clothed, and it's the commentary."

Speier's bill, the Servicemembers Intimate Privacy Protection Act, or SIPPA, would prohibit service members from sharing intimate images without the consent of the individual or individuals depicted, according to a release from her office. She plans to introduce the bill following a closed-door briefing on the Marines United fallout and investigation.

Erika Butner, the 23-year-old Marine veteran who will be appearing alongside Speier, went public in a March 8 press conference with Allred to self-identify as a victim of the Marines United page.

"I can tell you that this exact behavior leads to the normalization of sexual harassment and even sexual violence," she said, according to a Reuters report.

Speier has been a longtime advocate for female service members and civilians targeted my unofficial Marine Corps Facebook pages like Marines United. In 2013, she wrote a letter to then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos demanding that he take action to stop the online targeting, objectification and harassment of women.

"The military cannot eradicate this problem without fundamentally changing its approach, including its tolerance of participation in these kinds of websites," she wrote at the time.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

Related Topics

Headlines Women in the Military Congress Military Scandals Sexual Harassment Legislation Marine Corps Hope Seck

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