Ministry officials apologize to ex-GSDF member over sexual harassment

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ministry officials including Kazuhito Machida, head of the Defense Ministry’s Personnel and Education Bureau, second from right, apologize to Rina Gonoi on Thursday afternoon in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rina Gonoi speaks at a press conference Thursday afternoon in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

The Defense Ministry said Thursday that multiple acts of sexual harassment against a former Ground Self-Defense Force servicewoman have been confirmed and offered her an apology.

Rina Gonoi, 23, who had worked at a GSDF camp in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, alleged that she had been sexually harassed and assaulted by multiple male GSDF members.

The ministry has since launched a special investigation covering the entire Self-Defense Forces.

When Gonoi first made the allegations in August 2021, the ministry interviewed about 100 GSDF members, mainly those at the camp in Fukushima Prefecture.

As of Thursday, the ministry said it had confirmed sexual harassment cases at the unit to which Gonoi belonged and at training areas, among other places.

In August last year, Gonoi was sexually harassed in a training area. She was held down by a serviceman, who warned her against telling others about the incident.

The investigation also found that Gonoi discussed the incident with a commander for her unit, but the commander did not report it to a superior officer or conduct an investigation into the allegations.

Sexual harassment of multiple female members has come to light since the investigation was launched.

Kazuhito Machida, the head of the ministry’s Personnel and Education Bureau, and Fumio Fujioka, chief of the personnel education section of the Ground Staff Office, provided Gonoi with updates on their investigation at a House of Representatives office building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday.

“We deeply and sincerely apologize for your pain and suffering,” Machida told Gonoi.

“It has been a long journey,” Gonoi said with tears in her eyes. “I ask you to drastically improve the situation so that this will never happen again.”