TOKYO (AP) – A former Japanese soldier who was sexually harassed while serving in the military said on Monday she had accepted apologies from four servicemen in a landmark case that sparked a wide-ranging Defense Ministry investigation into increasing reports of attacks in the military.
Rina Gonoi told reporters that the four attackers, who were her superiors in the military, met her separately and apologized for the pain that caused her to give up her career in the military. She said some admitted to sexually harassing other female soldiers as well.
The four men told her they planned to resign from the military to take on the responsibility, she said. They gave her handwritten letters of apology that she read at a televised press conference. The attackers were not present and she did not reveal their names or ranks, saying their families were also victims and she did not want them to suffer.
When the men met her, “I was a little scared, but I kept my spirits up and stood face to face with them, because accepting a personal apology was one of my goals after seeing the truth being denied,” he said. they. said.
Gonoi filed a sexual harassment case with the Defense Ministry last year, saying she was attacked multiple times by male colleagues. In one incident, several older male colleagues pressed the lower part of their bodies against her in a dormitory on a training ground in August 2021, forcing her to spread her legs, while more than 10 other male colleagues looked on and laughed, but no one tried. stop them, she said.
She said the investigation into her case was improperly conducted and local prosecutors dropped it in May this year. A month later, she left the military and made her allegations known on social media.
Gonoi filed a petition signed by more than 100,000 people in August with the Defense Ministry to re-examine her allegations by a third party.
She also said she had received information about dozens of other servicemen who had been harassed during their service, as well as from parents concerned about the safety of their daughters in the military.
In a rare confession of sexual harassment in the military, army chief Yoshihide Yoshida . said apologized to Gonoi in September.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada also ordered a ministry-wide investigation into sexual assault following her allegations.
The ministry said the number of complaints about various types of harassment has increased almost tenfold in the past five years.
It sent investigators to the regional army division that oversaw the unit where Gonoi served. They found more victims in other cases and are expected to issue their final report within weeks.
In a country where gender inequality remains high, sexual harassment is often ignored and the #MeToo movement has been slow to take off. But Japanese women are slowly beginning to speak, although many still suffer in silence.
Gonoi said she went public because she wanted to help others who can’t raise their voices, and is happy to help the Department of Defense create an environment where there is less harassment and victims don’t have to quit their careers.
Despite the men’s apologies, “the scars I’ve suffered will stay with me for the rest of my life,” she said. “Now I want to get my own life back, not as a victim, but as someone who can make other people laugh and who can mean something to others.”
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