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Sexually abused ex-Japan SDF member receives direct apology from 4 assailants

Former Ground Self-Defense Force member Rina Gonoi speaks in a news conference at the Second Members Office Building of the House of Representatives on Oct. 17, 2022, after she received a direct apology from four SDF members involved in sexually abusing her. (Mainichi/Natsuki Nishi)

TOKYO -- A former female member of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) who recently revealed she had been sexually abused by colleagues disclosed in a news conference on Oct. 17 that four of the members involved had apologized to her directly.

    Rina Gonoi, 23, a former private first class at Camp Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, said in an afternoon news conference in Tokyo that the four apologized on the morning of Oct. 17 in a closed-door meeting.

    "When I received the apology, I cried," Gonoi said. "I considered it late in coming but at the same time I thought, 'This day has finally arrived.'"

    Gonoi said the apologies lasted for about an hour. "I received apologies individually," she said. "The perpetrators acknowledged their actions and repeatedly bowed their heads, and one was shedding tears." She said three of them got down on their hands and knees to apologize.

    As for why the perpetrators didn't admit to their actions at first, Gonoi said, "One of them said 'I didn't want my family to find out,' and there was also a person covering for (the statements of) other members." She said that a letter she received from one of the perpetrators stated, "I'm very sorry that my rash actions crushed your dream of serving actively in the SDF."

    While Gonoi received the apologies, she said they did not erase what the SDF members had done.

    "I don't think it's something that can be forgiven because I was given an apology. My pain is lifelong, and I want them to take responsibility for what they have done, and atone for their wrongdoing," she said.

    Gonoi left the SDF in June 2022, and publicly revealed on a video sharing site that she had been subjected to sexual abuse and harassment on a daily basis since being stationed at Camp Koriyama in September 2020. She went on to submit a petition with over 100,000 signatures to the Ministry of Defense. In late September, the ministry confirmed that Gonoi had been inappropriately touched by several people at the base in the fall of 2020, and that she had been pushed down and touched sexually in her dormitory during training in August 2021. She had also been told to keep quiet about the members' actions. A Defense Ministry official apologized in the wake of its investigation. Gonoi had requested a direct apology from the perpetrators.

    At the end of her news conference, Gonoi stood up and said, "At first, I fought with myself, and it was a battle in which I couldn't see the future. But I believed in myself and knew I wasn't lying, and even though various things were said about me every day, I moved forward while believing in myself."

    (Japanese original by Haruka Udagawa, Digital News Center)

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