Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday addressed a viral TikTok video of an emotional Marine saying her “perpetrator”, who admitted to misconduct, had been allowed to stay in the service.

Driving the news: Austin called the video “deeply disturbing,” and said he has asked his staff to get more information and provide assistance to the Marine.

  • In the video, the Marine, through tears, says that a commanding general had stepped in to allow her alleged perpetrator to remain in the Corps, despite an “admission to guilt.”
  • “This is exactly why” women in the military have died by suicide, the Marine adds.
  • The video, posted to TikTok on Thursday, has gone viral across several social media platforms.

What they’re saying: “We are aware of the video circulating social media concerning one of our Marines,” the Marine Corps said in a statement Friday Friday.

  • “This video specifically refers to an allegation of misconduct regarding the wrongful appropriation & distribution of personal information,” the Corps added.
  • “The current administrative separation process for the accused perpetrator mentioned in the video is ongoing. The Marine in the video is safe & has been afforded the opportunity to meet with senior representatives in her command.”
  • “We take all allegations of prohibited conduct & activities seriously to ensure our people are fully supported with appropriate resources specific to the nature of an incident.”

The big picture: In one of his first official acts as Pentagon chief, Austin directed senior military leaders to send him reports on sexual assault prevention programs, so the department can evaluate which initiatives have been most effective.

  • There were 7,825 sexual assault reports involving service members as victims in 2019, up 3% from the previous year, per the Defense Department.
  • While the military has been criticized for its handling of sexual misconduct allegations for years, the issue gained renewed attention following the murder of 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who told family and friends she had been sexually harassed before she disappeared from Fort Hood in April 2020.
  • An independent review of the case found that “there was a permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood. “

Austin reiterated on Friday that he takes the issue of sexual assault “very, very seriously.”

  • “We have been working at this for a long time in earnest, but we haven’t gotten it right,” Austin said. “And my commitment to my soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, and dependents is we’re going to do everything in our power to get it right.”

Go deeper: Austin orders evaluation of military sexual assault prevention programs