The U.S. Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) is investigating reports that female officers serving on submarines were secretly caught on video while showering, according to a report from the Navy Times.
The publication says that women were recorded aboard the ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming, and that a 24-year-old male, identified only by his rank of petty officer second class, was being investigated for allegedly making and circulating the videos.
The allegations emerged last month after an officer serving on another submarine received the videos, which show at least three women showering, the Times said.
In 2009, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that for the first time in Navy history, women would be assigned to serve aboard U.S. submarines.
Female officers first served on ballistic missile submarines, including the Wyoming, and are scheduled to begin serving aboard U.S. fast-attack subs in January 2015, according to Stars and Stripes.
Currently, females only serve as officers in the U.S. submarine fleet, but the Navy is aiming to integrate enlisted female personnel into the fleet by 2020, according to a separate Navy Times report.
The U.S. military has had to contend with an epidemic of sexual assault and rape allegations in recent years, and the organization's treatment of the victims of these crimes has been widely criticized.
For example, a former U.S. Air Force chief prosecutor told Yahoo News that he was “outraged” by the military's handling of sexual assault cases, following the controversial decision of an Air Force general to overturn a sexual assault conviction against a leading officer.
In addition, Captain Wayne Brown, formerly the commander of the prestigious war ship USS Boxer, was relieved of his post after a report concluded that he had "lost the respect, trust and confidence of his subordinates" over improper behavior that included inappropriate touching of female colleagues, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In another high-profile incident, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the Air Force officer who headed the service's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, was arrested and charged with sexual assault in May 2013. He was subsequently acquitted of the charges by a jury, according to the Washington Post.
A legislative effort led by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to strip some military commanders of prosecutorial authority in sexual assault cases, which would instead be handed over to an independent body, was revived this week. A disparate group of senators took to the podium Tuesday to offer their support for the bill, according to the Military Times.
Gillibrand recently pointed out that the military's most recent gender-relations survey from 2012 indicated that there had been 26,000 cases of sexual assault, rapes and unwanted sexual contact in that year, according to the New York Times.
The senator added, however, that only 3,300 of them, roughly one in eight, were actually reported, as survivors feared retaliation from their commanders.
Defense Department research has shown that one out of three women in the armed forces has suffered a sexual assault, which is twice the rate for American civilian women.