A report from the Associated Press has revealed data regarding sex crime perpetrators from the United States military who are stationed in Japan – mostly in the southern island prefecture of Okinawa – showing that most of these offenders are not imprisoned. AP has acquired over 1,000 records of sexual abuse complaints and allegations made against US military personnel in Japan through the Freedom of Information law, and the records reveal a “disturbing” fact that most of the alleged perpetrators have only received punishments like demotions, fines, or just a letter of reprimand.
The news agency decried the “chaos” in the process of handling these cases, saying that in cases from 2005 to 2013, only one-third of 244 service members who warranted some form of punishment were imprisoned. In 30 of these cases, the offenders received just a letter of reprimand. Of these totals, it was the US Marines that sent the most number of offenders to prison, totaling 53 out of 270 rape cases. In contrast, the US Navy only sent 15 out of 203 offenders to jail. The Air Force only sent 21 out of 124 offenders to prison.
In the report, the Associated Press also showed a decline in number of the complaints over time, with accusers seemingly growing tired of how the process is handled by the US military. AP suggests that this is a symptom of the people losing confidence in the system for dealing with sexual assaults, or even a growing unwillingness of victims and complainants to speak with investigators. “How many more rapes do we have to endure to wait and see what reforms are needed?” asked Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee. The US Congress has been pushing to remove the authority of senior officers to decide whether serious cases go to trial, and Gillibrand has spearheaded a bill that is likely to go before the Senate in the coming week.
Some senior US officials are opposed to this plan. “Taking the commander out of the loop never solved any problem,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, the military personnel subcommittee’s top Republican, said. “It would dismantle the military justice system beyond sexual assaults. It would take commanders off the hook for their responsibility to fix this problem.” Sexual assault cases taken to courts-martial have generally increased in the military from 2009 to 2012. But this trend is sadly not reflective of cases in Japan. Out of 473 allegations against sailors and Marines in Japan between 2005 and 2013, only 116 ended up in courts-martial, a measly 24 percent.