4 Self-Defense Forces servicemen apologize to female ex-member for sexual assault

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Former Ground Self-Defense Force member Rina Gonoi reads a letter in which a serviceman apologizes for sexually assaulting her, at a press conference in the Diet Building in Tokyo on Monday.

A former Ground Self-Defense member received apologies from four servicemen who had sexually harassed her while she was serving in the GSDF, the woman said Monday.

According to Rina Gonoi, the four indicated to her that they intend to leave the Self-Defense Forces after disciplinary actions against them are decided by the Defense Ministry.

Gonoi, 23, was an SDF member from April 2020 to June 2022. The four servicemen were Gonoi’s senior and supervisors when she worked at the GSDF’s Camp Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, and she was subjected to multiple acts of sexual harassment by them during that time. In an assault in August last year, the men pressed the lower part of their bodies against her at a training area accommodations facility at the camp.

Gonoi held a press conference in Tokyo on Monday and revealed that the four had apologized directly to her on the same day.

According to Gonoi, the apologies were made separately behind close doors, and she received a letter from each man. One letter said, “I’m so sorry for destroying your dream of serving as an SDF member.”

As to the reasons why they did not admit to the harassment once allegations were made, one explained that he did not want his family to know about it, and another said he was trying to protect his fellow servicemen.

“This isn’t an issue that can be forgiven with an apology. I will be scarred for the rest of my life,” Gonoi said at the press conference. “I want them to take responsibility for what they did and atone for their crimes.”

On Sept. 29, the Defense Ministry said that multiple acts of sexual harassment against Gonoi had been confirmed in its internal investigation.

The ministry is conducting further investigations regarding the disciplinary actions to be taken against SDF service members, including the four. It is also conducting a special investigation involving all members of the SDF to uncover any other cases of harassment.