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Ex-SDF member demands probe into sexual assault claims at Japan base

Former Ground Self-Defense Force Private First Class Rina Gonoi, front right, is seen at the Ministry of Defense in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, on Aug. 31, 2022. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

TOKYO -- A former Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) member on Aug. 31 asked the Ministry of Defense to conduct a third-party investigation into sexual abuse she says she suffered while serving, with 105,296 signatures she collected online supporting her action.

    Rina Gonoi, 22, former GSDF private first class, has come forward to accuse a group of GSDF members at Camp Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture of sexual assault. She visited the Defense Ministry in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on Aug. 31 to file her request and submit the signatures. Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Jiro Kimura told her that the ministry was looking into the allegations, but did not clarify whether a third-party probe would be carried out.

    According to Gonoi, colleagues started sexually harassing her from the time she was assigned to the camp in September 2020. This included making fun of over her body and hugging her out of the blue in the hallway. During a training session in late June 2021, she was made to join a circle of as many as five or six men who were all sitting close in a tent late at night and was touched on the breasts and kissed, she said.

    Furthermore, in early August 2021, she was made to sit in the middle of a dozen or so male members who were drinking at a dorm room. She was then pushed down on a bed by some of them, with her legs forcibly spread open, while they pressed their crotches against her. Gonoi said the men were laughing while this was happening.

    Gonoi was subsequently diagnosed as suffering adjustment disorder and took a leave of absence in January 2022, and left the GSDF in late June. Soon after, she came forward with the allegations on YouTube.

    Based on Gonoi's accusations, the GSDF's police unit sent public prosecutors papers on three male members on suspicion of sexual assault, but prosecutors decided not to indict them. Unhappy with the prosecutors' decision, Gonoi has filed a formal review request with the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution. The Defense Ministry is looking into the case to see whether the members' actions warrant disciplinary measures.

    Gonoi called for information regarding harassment within the Self-Defense Forces, and according to her, 146 people including those who claim to be current SDF members came forward. These claims included 101 cases of power harassment, 87 cases of sexual harassment and 38 cases of moral harassment including psychological ill treatment. Gonoi also reported her findings to Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kimura.

    (Japanese original by Toshiaki Uchihashi, Tokyo City News Department)

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