STATEMENT: Marine Cyber-based Sexual Abuse Scandal Reveals Systemic Military Problem

NCOSE Press Statement logo

Washington DC – In the wake of the recent scandal involving hundreds of U.S. Marines being investigated for sharing nude photographs of women—including some of which were allegedly taken without the consent or knowledge of the subject—the National Center on Sexual Exploitation highlights the link between this investigation, as well as the military’s enduring culture of sexual harassment and assault, with pornography use.

“It is clear that the military has a pornography problem,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “The recent scandal of active duty and retired members of the U.S. Marine Corps trading nude and sexually explicit images of women, some of them featuring fellow Marines, demonstrates how sexual harassment and violence in the military do not occur in a vacuum.”

“As the Internet pornography generation enters the military, it is no surprise that the predatory attitudes and behaviors taught in pornography may spillover into their professional lives. The collective participation by hundreds of Marines in the trading of sexually explicit images—some purportedly obtained through stalking, and others with comments that included allusions to sexual assault and rape—suggests a frightening level of sexual callousness. But using others and raw sexual objectification are the ABCs of pornography. It appears that these Marines have learned their pornography lessons well.”

“Research show that pornography use is strongly linked to aggressive and even sexually violent behaviors,” Hawkins continued. “For instance, a 2015 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven countries found that the consumption of pornography was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike. Another meta-analysis of 46 studies reported that the effects of exposure to pornographic material are ‘clear and consistent,’ and that pornography use puts people at increased risk for committing sexual offenses and accepting rape myths.”

“This aggression and allegiance to pornography above all else is being demonstrated by the numerous threats targeting Thomas Brennan, the Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient who first reported on this scandal, and his family. Threats have included that Brennan’s wife should be raped, that he should be waterboarded, and in one instance someone even offered a bounty for nude pictures of his daughter.”

“We call on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to investigate this scandal and ask the Secretary of Defense to implement system-wide changes within all military branches to recognize the harms of pornography within the context of sexual assault and harassment prevention,” Hawkins continued.

“On March 20 from 1:00 – 4:30 PM the National Center on Sexual Exploitation will host a national briefing called The Freedom from Sexploitation Agenda at the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. Topics such as the harms of pornography and ways to combat sexual exploitation in the military will be addressed. You can learn more and RSVP to attend at”

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



Survivor Lawsuit Against Twitter Moves to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Survivors’ $12.7M Victory Over Explicit Website a Beacon of Hope for Other Survivors

Instagram Makes Positive Safety Changes via Improved Reporting and Direct Message Tools

Sharing experiences may be a restorative and liberating process. This is a place for those who want to express their story.

Support Dignity

There are more ways that you can support dignity today, through an online gift, taking action, or joining our team.