A true American hero, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Marisa Woytek, has stepped forward to talk about the sexual harassment she suffered because of a Facebook group. The allegations against a group of U.S. Marines stems from a bombshell report that was published by Reveal. The behavior on a Facebook page named Marines United was red flagged by The War Horse. The War Horse is operated by veteran Thomas Brennan, a Purple Heart recipient. Woytek says that photos from her private Instagram page were circulated on the Facebook group and with that came a barrage of sexual harassment and abuse. She was not the only victim.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Woytek Says ‘Being Sexually Harassed Ruined the Marine Corps for Me’
The Reveal report says that in January 2017, a Google Drive link was posted to the some-30,000 members of the Marines United page. That link led to a collection of photos showing female U.S. Marines in their private lives. The report adds that the drive link included personal information about the Marines.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Woytek said, “Even if I could, I’m never reenlisting. Being sexually harassed online ruined the Marine Corps for me, and the experience.” Thanks to the reporting from Reveal and War Horse, Woytek says the other victims “have a voice now.”
The Washington Post reports that the former Marine and defense contractor who posted the link has since been fired.
One photo that was referenced in the Reveal report says that one user commented on a photo of a female Marine bending over to pick up her gear. A commenter wrote, “take her out back and pound her out.” While someone else followed up with, “And butthole. And throat. And ears. Both of them. Video it though… for science.”
2. Woytek Got Married to a Fellow Marine in October 2016; Shortly After the Couple Returned From Active Duty
Woytek nee Black married fellow Marine Zachary Woytek in Fulshear, Texas, in October 2016, according to a wedding announcement in the Tri-City Tribune. The announcement says that the couple had both just returned from serving in Iraq. Woytek was on board the USS Boxer while her husband was on the USS New Orleans.
Though the couple’s The Knot page gives their wedding date as being June 2017 and taking place in Costa Mesa, California.
The announcement continues, “The couple is making their home in Vista, California and have one and a half years left of active duty. After their enlistments are over they plan to return to College Station, Texas and attend Texas A&M University.”
According to her page, Woytek lives in Oceanside, California. She jokes in her about section, “I’m just here for the free beer.”
On his Facebook page, Zachary Woytek says that he works in Marine recruitment. He is from Columbus, Texas.
3. Woytek’s Courage Is Getting Huge Props on Twitter
Woytek’s courage for standing up in the issue of Marines United is being lauded on Twitter. Here are some of the most positive messages:
4. Her Father Is a Former Cop & Marine as Well as a Golf Entrepreneur
Woytek’s parents are John Black and Barbara Firebaugh of Costa Mesa, as per the Marine’s wedding announcement. According to Black’s LinkedIn page, he is a retired U.S. Marine, serving as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief, attaining the rank of sergeant. He left the corps in August 1992 having joined in November 1986. From there, Black became a cop in the Rialto Police Department in San Bernardino, California. He left the force in November 2015.
In retirement, Black went on to found, Teeclaw. The company manufactures a different type of golf tee that is ideal for playing on synthetic turf. Black says in the company’s mission statement, “Make no mistake, our professional military and law enforcement backgrounds have framed our trustworthy business approach. Once our business is established, we will donate a portion of our profits to those men and women wounded or killed in the military and law enforcement professions. This is our way of staying real to our principles and remembering our fallen brethren.”
Woytek wrote about her father in a poignant Instagram post saying, “You know, people in the military experience a bond with each other. It’s a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a friendship. It’s a deep bond that active duty and veterans can’t really put into words. But to me it’s so much more, when that bond is with my father.”
5. The NCIS Is ‘Investigating Incidents Related to the Marines United Group’
Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller told the Washington Post shortly after news of the scandal broke:
For anyone to target one of our Marines, online or otherwise, in an inappropriate manner, is distasteful and shows an absence of respect. I expect Marines to give their all to be the best human beings, teammates, and Marines possible.
While a Marine Corps spokesman, Captain Ryan Alvis, told Post that the Naval Criminal Investigation Service is investigating “incident related to the Marines United group.”
While in a statement, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith said, “This behavior by Marines and former Marines is degrading, dangerous, and completely unacceptable. The military men and women who proudly volunteer to serve their country should not have to deal with this kind of reprehensible conduct.”
In 2013, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, drew attention to a similar Facebook group. Rep. Speier sent a report on her findings to generals in March 2013. The then-commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, pulled back on an investigation. Gen. Amos said that there was a lack of funding with which to monitor Marines’ social media activities.
Reveal reports that in the wake of that scandal, 12 Marines were reprimanded for their behavior online. The now-deleted Facebook page at the center of that scandal was titled FN Wook.