Washington, DC - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, on Thursday introduced legislation to close a massive gap in the Uniform Code of Military Justice by prohibiting military service members from sharing intimate images without the consent of the individual(s) depicted. Rep. Speier introduced the Servicemembers Intimate Privacy Protection Act (SIPPA) following a briefing by Marine Corps and Navy leadership on the Marines United scandal and subsequent investigation.
“Marines United is just the tip of the iceberg. Websites with nude pictures of women in the military distributed without their knowledge and consent undermines our armed forces, unit cohesion and combat readiness. We must amend the UCMJ to make these acts illegal, so that future perpetrators will be held responsible. And we must do everything we can to provide survivors with the support they need and deserve while also ensuring that the perpetrators who are not be covered by this bill are drummed out of the service. Nothing less is acceptable,” said Rep. Speier. “In 2013, I made it clear that these attacks undermined the morale of our troops, affected our combat readiness; and diminished our military in the eyes of our enemies. And yet, here we are four years later, and nothing has changed. The toxic rot that has pervaded our military culture has spread. Hundreds of women, in all branches of the military, continue to find their careers and lives destroyed by the complete failure of military leadership to protect their troops and enforce their creed of good order and discipline. It’s time for Congress to act and stop making excuses for the military’s action.”
Joining the congresswoman for the bill’s introduction was nationally renowned women’s and victims’ rights attorney Gloria Allred, as well as Ms. Allred’s client, Marine veteran Erika Butner. Ms. Butner is a survivor who bravely came forward to illustrate the destruction wrought on her life and career after personal photos of her were posted without her consent through the Marines United Facebook group. Ms. Allred spoke on her client’s behalf at the press conference announcing the congresswoman’s bill, and on behalf of countless survivors of these attacks.
"I believe that both Republicans and Democrats should support Congresswoman Speier’s bill, which she introduced today,” Ms. Allred said. “This important bill will provide more protections for victims and more serious consequences for perpetrators who violate the legal rights of victims by displaying and disseminating nude photos without their consent.”
Also in attendance was Ret. Col. Don Christensen, a former Air Force Chief Prosecutor and President of Protect Our Defenders, the only national organization solely dedicated to ending the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military and combating a culture of pervasive sexual harassment and retribution against survivors and whistleblowers.
Col. Christensen told reporters, “I am honored to stand in support of Congresswoman Speier’s bill to criminalize the repugnant behavior of military members posting online intimate photos of other service members without their consent. We have all witnessed the devastation this repugnant behavior brings to the lives of survivors victimized by this conduct. At Protect Our Defenders, we have been hearing for years from service women who have had their photos shared without their consent and the horrific impact it has on had their lives. This conduct strikes at the heart of good order and discipline and fuels the misogynistic culture that is ripping at the fabric of the military. Unfortunately, the UCMJ does not currently criminalize what is commonly referred to as revenge porn, and this makes it difficult to hold offenders accountable. That is why, I urge Congress to quickly enact this bill to bring an end to this scourge.”