The Navy is investigating allegations that a Washington-based sailor threatened to rape a California naval recruit in a comment posted on social media, military officials told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer for Naval Air Forces Pacific, confirmed there was an investigation into the conduct of Nicholas Lord, a sailor aboard the aircraft carrier Nimitz, stationed in Bremerton, Wash.
"The Navy takes all allegations of sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault very seriously, so yes, we are looking into the matter," she said. "There is no place for sexual assault or even the threat of it in the Navy."
Groeneveld told The Times that Lord, a petty officer, joined the Navy in 2008 and has been aboard the Nimitz since November, where he serves as an electrician mate. She would not say whether Navy officials had confirmed that Lord wrote the comments in question.
This week, a man posting as Lord commented publicly on a photo shared on social media by a woman who said she was in the process of joining the Navy. The photo, posted with a caption saying she was honored to enlist, showed her flexing her arm, wearing shorts and a Navy T-shirt.
When the image was shared on a Facebook page for Navy recruits, Lord allegedly wrote in the comments: "You'll end up pregnant real soon you (expletive) whore. If I could and I knew you I'd hold you down and rape you."
A request for comment from the woman who was the target of the threat was not immediately returned. The woman, who is from Salinas, Calif., addressed the controversy on her Facebook page.
"Rape threats are NEVER ok. Today was the first day I read his actual threatening comment about me. My heart dropped to my stomach and I wanted to puke," she wrote Wednesday. "Disgusting. But im strong and not easily broken! I pray this never happens again to anyone EVER."
On a Facebook page believed to belong to Lord, he describes himself as a nuclear electrician and says he lives in Lynnwood, Wash. A July 6 post on that page acknowledged recent remarks.
"Posting inappropriate comments while drunk and reading the responses later is super awesome," he wrote, later adding: "Just to clarify, its mostly about rape on feminist Facebook pages."
A message sent to Lord seeking comment was not returned.
On the Facebook page for the Nimitz, where some commenters asked for action to be taken, officials reminded users Thursday of guidelines intended "to help promote a positive and supportive atmosphere."
In an email to The Times, Groeneveld said the investigation could have a number of possible results including "a recommendation of no action, administrative action, non-judicial punishment or court-martial."
She could not confirm that the woman was a Naval recruit.
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3:49 p.m.: This post updated with additional comments from the U.S. Navy
This post published at 3:27 p.m.