Marine General Overseeing Sexual Assault Allegations Reportedly Calls Them ‘Fake News’
As the U.S. Marine Corps continues to address recent non-consensual nude photo-sharing, a Marine general in charge of sexual assault prevention and allegations has been suspended after he reportedly ridiculed assault allegations as “fake news.”
USA Today reports:
Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein, director of Marine and Family Programs, made the remarks April 6 before an audience estimated at hundreds of civilian employees and Marines at their base in Quantico, Va., according to three people who attended the all-hands meeting last week. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they said they feared retaliation.
The allegations that Stein disparaged, first reported by USA TODAY in February, involved two civilian employees who said a Marine officer had made several sexual overtures to them. The allegations initially were deemed unfounded, but the Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, ordered a new investigation of the claims in March.
The Marine Corps confirmed that Stein had been suspended by Neller after an anonymous tip about his comments at the National Museum of the Marine Corps was phoned into the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“We expect every Marine, uniformed and civilian—and particularly those in leadership positions—to take allegations of misconduct seriously and to promote positive command climates,” said Lt. Col. Chris Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman. “As a Corps we are committed to fully investigating and holding ourselves accountable when those allegations are shown to be true. Leaders have a responsibility to ensure that their Marines and civilian employees believe they will be taken seriously if they come forward with allegations of misconduct of any kind.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel, added: “If these allegations are true, Gen. Stein has no business serving in the Marine Corps. Leaders must be held to the highest standard if the Corps expects the rank and file to live up to its core values of honor, courage and commitment.”
However, some sexual assault and harassment advocates say Stein’s alleged comments are indicative of a wider problem of sexual assault and harassment in the Marine Corps. “This is the leader of a sexual assault and harassment response unit and to use language calling assault fake news is very dangerous,” Erin Kirk-Cuomo, a Marine veteran who co-founded Not in My Marine Corps, an effort to fight sexual harassment and assault in the military, told Bustle. “With leaders like this it is no wonder that the Marine Corps has the highest rates of sexual assault and harassment out of any of the services.”
Sherry Yetter, now the senior coordinator for sexual assault response for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, has accused the corps of continuing to minimize complaints from 2014. USA Today continues:
An investigative report filed by the Marines in 2017 and obtained by USA TODAY found Sherry Yetter’s complaint unsubstantiated, amounting to his word against hers. …
She complained in 2014 but was discouraged from pursuing the case because her assignment was temporary, she said. She complained again in July 2017 when [Maj. David] Cheek was reassigned to the building where she works with her husband, a Marine lieutenant colonel, and the other woman who filed a complaint.
“If the Marine Corps had done what it was supposed to do in 2014, he wouldn’t have been brought back to the same building,” Yetter said. “The commanding officer was notified in 2014. They had every chance to handle this in-house. The leadership chose not to act on it. It’s still happening. I still go to work in a hostile, unsafe work environment. My perception is that the Marine Corps simply doesn’t care.”