TOKYO (AP) – In a rare admission of sexual harassment in Japan’s military, its army chief apologised on Thursday to a former soldier for suffering caused by a group of servicemembers.
Head of Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force Yoshihide Yoshida said an internal investigation found evidence that several servicemen were involved in the case brought by former soldier Rina Gonoi last month.
“Representing the Ground-Self Defence Force, I deeply apologise to Gonoi for the pain she had to suffer for a long time,” Yoshida told a news conference. “We offer a sincere apology.”
The investigation is continuing and further details, including the assailants and their punishment, have not been released.
Gonoi welcomed the apology and thanked those who supported her, but added that “my battle is not over”.
“I’m determined to get an apology directly from the perpetrators,” she tweeted.
Japan’s Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada last month ordered a ministry-wide investigation into growing reports of sexual assault after Gonoi brought allegations of harassment of her and others.
Gonoi came forward in late August to request a reinvestigation of an alleged assault of her in 2021 by former male colleagues.
She also said she had received information from 146 servicemembers who said they had been harassed while on duty. The ministry said the number of various types of harassment complaints rose from 256 in 2016 to 2,311 last year.
Gonoi said in a statement that she filed a case with the ministry, but the investigation was not properly conducted and local prosecutors dropped the case in May.
A month later, she quit the army and disclosed her allegations on social media.
Gonoi said she felt her case had been quashed and she had to raise her voice because there could be more victims if she didn’t.