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Austin calls video claiming military allowed assailant to stay in uniform 'disturbing'

Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinPentagon chief backs change to military sexual assault prosecution Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system MORE on Friday addressed a viral video in which a distressed female Marine said a senior Marine Corps official allowed a fellow Marine to stay in the service after they sexually assaulted her.

Austin, addressing reporters for the first time at the Pentagon, said he watched the video and found it “deeply disturbing.”

“I've asked my staff for additional information, and I'll leave it at that,” Austin said.

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The widely shared, self-recorded video, posted to TikTok on Thursday, shows an emotional Marine from Camp Lejeune, N.C., claiming that a man who admitted guilt was allowed to remain in uniform after their commanding general stepped in.

Her perpetrator, she said, was initially meant to receive an honorable discharge, but would now be retained by the service, even after multiple recommendations from higher ups not to keep him in uniform.

“All the way up, across the board, everybody said that they would not retain him," she said. “And the f---ing head honcho ... with all of the proof and a . . .  admission to guilt decided that they will retain him.”

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She says the handling of her case “is exactly why . . . females in the military f---ing kill themselves. This is exactly why nobody f------ takes this seriously.”

The Marine Corps, in a statement posted to Twitter, said it is aware of the video, “has taken action to ensure the Marine is safe,” and is gathering information.

“The Marine Corps takes all allegations of misconduct seriously," it said. "The current administrative separation process for the accused perpetrator mentioned in the video is ongoing.”

The video has surfaced following Austin’s pledge in January to work to eliminate sexual assault in the services, a long-time problem that has proved difficult to stamp out even after decades of efforts.

The Defense Department last year reported that sexual assaults had increased by 3 percent in 2019, with similarly persistent problems at the service academies.

In one of his first official acts, Austin called on the services to examine programs aimed at curtailing sexual assaults and harassment.

“I take this issue of sexual assault very, very seriously,” he said Friday. “We’ve been working at this for a long time in earnest but we haven’t gotten it right. We’re going to do everything in our power to get it right.”

He said the collection of data is a first step but the Pentagon will soon move to look “in detail at ourselves and what’s worked, what hasn’t worked and what measures we need to take going forward . . . .Any other approach is, in my view, irresponsible.”