For decades, sexual harassment and assault have been the black eye of the United States Military, this is due to misuse of judicial punishment, lack of protection for the victims, and the rampant reprisal on those that speak out. There have been congressional hearings on this where female AND male survivors have testified how the military failed to support or protect them. While congressional bills that would change the military justice system is being processed through the legislative process, it is important to understand the affect of such changes.
The Intercept released its findings on the U.S. Military’s misuse on handling sexual harassment and assault abroad in Japan. Most notably, the instances in Japan are heavily focused when service members sexual harass and assault local Japanese women and children. Between the years 2017 and 2019, journalist Jon Mitchell found that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) processed at least eight sex crime cases.
He found that these cases were not reported to the public, nor reported on any reports to Congress. “The sexual offenses against women in Okinawa detailed in the reports are, of course, only a fraction of the actual tally of military crime on the island.
The reports do not include investigations into offenses committed by soldiers and members of the U.S. Air Force, nor do they take into account the number of victims who do not report their attacks” (Mitchell, 2021).
In 1995, three U.S. Soldiers raped an Okinawan elementary schoolgirl. This event motivated the women of Okinawa to create their own civic group called Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence. Since they were founded, they compiled military on civilian sex offense cases and have published a booklet called “Postwar U.S. Military Crimes Against Women in Okinawa.” This booklet, with the most updated as the 12th edition, chron- ologically details roughly 350 U.S. military sex crimes. For example, the research includes a Time magazine article where they note that “In the six months ending last September, U.S. soldiers committed an appalling number of crimes — 29 murders, 18 rape cases, 16 robberies, 33 assaults. (Tomita, 2021).”
The most upsetting part about the research is that the 8 instances of military on civilian sex crimes, many of these perpetrators of these crimes were minimally punished or not punished at all, and some were not added to the sex offender registry. This occurrence is not limited to military justice actions, while the Japanese judicial process is allowed to punish U.S. service members, only 15% of U.S. military suspects were indicted in 2020 versus 41% of civilian suspects.
So the improvements to military justice processing would not only improve the lives of our military, it can improve the lives of worldwide vulnerable people.