Updated March 3, 2021
Washington, DC – Last Friday, a TikTok video in which a distraught Marine expresses her grief after finding out the servicemember who committed a nonconsensual sex offense against her would remain in the military went viral, reaching the attention of top military brass, including the Defense Secretary. In the video, the Marine describes how – despite an admission of guilt and a decision by a military separations board that her offender would be discharged – she discovered a Commanding General (CG) had overruled the board’s decision and would allow her offender to continue to serve. The Marine also pointed to the mistreatment of her case as an example of why female servicemembers commit suicide or leave the military.
The video comes at a time of heightened scrutiny on military sexual assault following a recent RAND report, which found that sexual assaults and harassment in a single year were associated with 10,000 service members leaving the military within 28 months, as well as an independent investigation describing a permissive environment of sexual assault and harassment at Fort Hood.
President Biden has been clear on the need to empower independent military prosecutors to address the crisis. This is the first time that a Commander-in-Chief has supported fundamental reform. With continued resistance from military leadership to address a long-standing culture of sexual assault, that support will prove vital in implementing real change. Protect Our Defenders is representing the Marine in that video – who wished to speak out in her own words – and is releasing a statement on her behalf.
The Marine and survivor of military sexual assault who spoke out in the now viral TikTok video, released the following statement:
“I have been open and honest about my journey and frustration this past year. In October 2019 while deployed, I reported my coworker for sexual misconduct, who was also a Uniformed Victim Advocate. I had proof and witnesses. That same night my Command confronted this Marine and he admitted to what he had done. That next morning that same Marine was still the Platoon Sergeant holding formation while I hid in my room, ashamed of what had happened. A Military Protective Order was placed. When they finally removed the Marine from the installation, I was met with silence. For the following months, I begged my command for word on what was happening. I found out through an E3 [Private First Class] who was not in my chain of command that the Marine was punished administratively, not court martialed. My chain of command never formally notified me about what action they took against this Marine. Months had passed and I constantly asked my leadership for information, even at one-point cornering my Commanding Officer while he visited our post. I said clearly, ‘I think we need a better vetting system for Uniformed Victim Advocates. I do not want to be in the same unit as this Marine when we get back to the United States.’”
“A month prior to me arriving back in the United States, I was notified that I would be working in the same office as that Marine. Luckily, I came across a MSgt [Master Sergeant] who helped me receive orders to his unit where I have been looked after and cared for deeply. In December, I was notified I would be able to testify at the Marine’s separations board. I had to witness my old leadership come forward with recommendation letters for this Marine because he was a ‘hard worker.’ I had to hear things like, ‘he made a mistake and fell into temptation, but he could be a great leader.’ The proceedings ended and a decision was made. He would be forced out, but receive an honorable discharge. Thursday, February 18th, I was notified that the Commanding General had decided to retain this Marine despite his crimes committed against me. I was allotted the opportunity to go home and, while under extreme duress, I made a video on TikTok. I will not apologize for using social media as an outlet to grieve. I have been sexually assaulted in the Marine Corps, I have experienced Military Sexual Trauma throughout my entire time in service. I have connected with thousands of men and women who have dealt with Military Sexual Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome stemming from sexual assault and harassment while serving.
“I am not a one in a million story. I am lucky I have been able to stay safe. I am lucky the command I am with now has been so understanding, unlike my former command. So many men and women, enlisted, commissioned, active, and veterans have not had the same opportunities as I have had to get justice. I welcome anyone who has served to share their stories on the forum at notyourreality.com. I will not be talking to any press or news reporters at this time. In the future, I would be willing to speak with the media about the toxic culture surrounding sexual misconduct in the military and not about my individual experience. There is a lot of misinformation you will hear used to discredit me – this is a direct reflection of what happens when service members come forward with their story. I am not responsible for fixing what I did not break. My name is Dalina, I am not a martyr, I am a Sergeant in the Marines who has served honorably and am asking that everyone remain respectful of my space and privacy. Thank You.”
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“Anyone watching her video can see the pain caused by the Marines’ failure to hold her offender accountable. Protect Our Defenders stands with President Biden on the urgent need to reform the military justice system and empower independent prosecutors. The military is utterly failing survivors, their families, and our ability to retain the best and brightest. Survivors have been let down too many times with empty promises of zero tolerance. The chain of command has failed, and it is past time for real reform.
“Sadly, her experience is not unique. The majority of survivors – 64 percent – face retaliation after reporting. A recent RAND study found that thousands of survivors are leaving the military due to sexual harassment and assault. At the same time, a mere 6.4% of reports resulted in an offender facing a court-martial and only 2.4% resulted in a conviction.
“The military’s failure to take seriously the crisis of nonconsensual sex crimes plaguing the force was exposed yet again last week when a brave Marine posted a TikTok video that went viral. This Marine experienced a callous disregard by her chain of command even when faced with a confession from her perpetrator. Rather than seeing her offender prosecuted, she was told a general officer had decided to retain the perpetrator. Like too many survivors, she witnessed her boss come to the defense of the offender. Rather than support her, they retaliated against her.”
PBS News Hour: U.S. military grapples with a rising epidemic of sexual assault in its ranks