McCaskill Demands Answers on Online Group Trading Suggestive Photos of Female Servicemembers, Spouses

Senator continues fight to protect members of the military and their families from exploitation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called on a Pentagon watchdog to investigate a website containing suggestive photos of women who are current servicemembers or spouses of current servicemembers.

“The exploitation of our brave women in uniform is repugnant, and the targeting of our servicemembers’ spouses is just as appalling,” said McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor. “There needs to be a thorough investigation of this website, and if wrongdoing is found, the perpetrators should be brought to justice.”

A researcher with Vietnam Veterans of America, who has uncovered around 100 questionable Facebook pages targeting military personnel and veterans on a variety of issues, identified a number of pages linking to a website titled “HotMilitaryGirls[dot]com” and alerted McCaskill to the issue. The website serves as a messaging board to trade suggestive photos of women who appear to be current servicemembers or spouses of current servicemembers. While the website is currently operated from Montreal, Canada, account names, emblems, and clothing evident in a majority of photos link them to the U.S. military.

“It has come to my attention that foreign entities may be using websites and Facebook pages to potentially exploit servicemembers, veterans, and their families,” McCaskill wrote in a letter to the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. “Many of the women pictured are easily identifiable; their consent to be photographed and have the photos posted online is not evident and therefore cannot be guaranteed. … I respectfully request that you evaluate whether there are exploitation concerns or violations of law, military regulations, or policies, associated with these sites and, if warranted, undertake a thorough investigation.”

A former sex crimes prosecutor, McCaskill has long been an advocate for victims of sexual violence in the military. Earlier this year, she called for the Department of Veterans Affairs to better assist veteran survivors of sexual assault and ensure they receive the benefits they’re owed. In February, McCaskill’s bipartisan bill to improve sexual violence data collection at several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, cleared a key committee hurdle. Her bipartisan fix to military law to better guard against “revenge porn” by making such conduct a standard offense across the military, became law last year. McCaskill backed the Abolish Human Trafficking Actwhich strengthens and extends key programs that support victims of human trafficking and provides resources to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. That bill enhances and expands the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which the Senate passed unanimously in 2015 with a McCaskill-backed amendment that closed a loophole enabling sex offenders convicted under the Uniform Military Code of Justice to evade registering as sex offenders.

McCaskill was also a key leader in the fight to shut down Backpage.com, a website that knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and young girls and covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. She led a nearly two-year Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations bipartisan inquiry with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio,which culminated in a report entitled “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking.” McCaskill and Portman’s investigation led to the Senate’s 96-0 passage of a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against the company—the first such action in 20 years—after the company refused to turn over documents responsive to the Senators’ requests. That historic lawsuit also led to the Supreme Court’s denial of Backpage’s request to stay the U.S. District Court’s order to comply with the Senate’s subpoena. Earlier this year, McCaskill championed an anti-trafficking bill signed into law by President Trump, resulting in a major disruption in the online marketplace for sex trafficking.

Read McCaskill’s letter HERE.