TOKYO – A former member of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) who was sexually assaulted by several male colleagues has revealed that a lawyer representing one of her attackers told her it was “questionable whether the staff for the case could be held individually liable”. .
Rina Gonoi, 23, a former private first class at Camp Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, held a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on December 19 and said she had been offered a settlement by three of the accused men . The Department of Defense on December 15 disciplined five male members, including these three, ranging in age from 20 to 40 and between sergeant and master sergeant.
In August 2021, Gonoi was pinned down by three sergeants in a dormitory while about a dozen male members were present before pressing their crotches against her. She was also subjected to other forms of sexual harassment. The three were referred to the prosecutor’s office on suspicion of indecent assault, but the Koriyama branch of the Fukushima District Procuratorate subsequently dropped the charges against them. However, the Koriyama Committee to Investigate the Prosecution ruled in September this year that it was unfair not to prosecute the accused. The branch has accordingly resumed its investigations.
Gonoi explained at the December 19 press conference that the three now-former GSDF members each offered about 300,000 yen (about US$2,300) in settlement money. When the lawyer made this offer to her, it was said that it was “questionable whether the staff could be held individually liable for the attack”.
Gonoi said, “I was willing to accept the offer, but more than the size of the severance package, I was surprised by this comment, which made me think they didn’t take[the damage they caused]seriously.”
In response, Gonoi said she asked the defendants how they felt about their actions and how they accepted responsibility, and is awaiting their response. She also stated that she was considering suing the national government for damages.
Gonoi also revealed that around the time she started speaking out about the sexual assault on a video-sharing site after she left the GSDF in June, anonymous social media users slandered and made false claims about her had posted. She said she had lodged a complaint with the police about malicious posts.
A total of nine men, including the five dismissed and the squad commander who failed to report the attack to his superiors, faced some form of punitive action. Gonoi pointed out during the press conference that sexual harassment was “part of the communication” between her team members and that they had gone deaf to harassment. She stated, “I believe the GSDF is subject to change, otherwise my action to come forward becomes meaningless.”
(Japanese original by Toshiaki Uchihashi and Kotaro Adachi, Tokyo City News Department)