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Sunday, June 23, 2024

A sordid history of U.S. military sex crimes in Japan

Japanese protest against sexual abuse of women by American military. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Japanese protest against sexual abuse of women by American military.
(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Hundreds of records detailing sex-crime investigations involving U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan show most offenders were not incarcerated, suspects received light punishments after being accused of serious violations, and victims increasingly were wary of cooperating with investigators.

According to the Department of Defense documents:


Data from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which handles the Navy and Marine Corps, show that Navy commanders in Japan increasingly are resolving sexual assault cases through nonjudicial punishment rather than courts-martial. From 2006 to 2009, they favored courts-martial, but from 2010 to 2012 they were three times more likely to choose non-judicial punishment. In 2012, just one Navy sex-abuse case went to a court-martial, while 13 were handled through nonjudicial punishment.


The NCIS documents show that out of 473 Marines and sailors accused of sex offenses, 179 were given some punishment, and 68 went to prison. Marines were accused more frequently than sailors, though they are stationed in Japan in similar numbers. But Marines were three times more likely to get prison sentences, which sailors received in only 15 cases over more than seven years. The Air Force data showed that out of 124 airmen accused over five years, 17 received prison time and 42 received some other punishment. In 21 Air Force cases, the sole punishment was a letter of reprimand.


In 46 Marine cases and 22 Navy cases, those initially accused of a violent sex crime ended up being punished for nonviolent or nonsexual offenses. The most common such charges were assault, failure to obey orders, adultery, having sex in barracks and fraternization.


Of more than 620 serious sex-crime allegations against military personnel, at least 323 of the alleged victims also were in the military. Civilians were the accusers in 94 cases, but in nearly 200 cases the alleged victim’s status was unclear. Among U.S. military sexual assault reports worldwide in the 2011-12 fiscal year, 2,949 of the 3,604 victims were service members, according to the department’s annual report to Congress on sexual assault in the military.


The NCIS data show a growing number of accusers dropping out of investigations, either by recanting the allegations or simply declining to cooperate further. In 2006, 13 accusers recanted or stopped cooperating, and 28 did so in 2012. The Air Force data showed a decline, and the Army data was incomplete.


The Associated Press obtained more than 1,000 summaries of sex-crime cases involving U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan, following Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and NCIS.

More than 600 of the documents come from the NCIS, which investigates Navy and Marine Corps cases. They cover allegations of sex crimes filed between mid-2005 and early 2013. More than 400 additional documents came from the Air Force, (covering cases from 2005 to 2010), the Army (2006-12), the Marines (2009-12) and the Navy (2011-2013). The AP reviewed all the documents but did not use the Marine or Navy data to compile overall statistics, to avoid duplicating parts of the more extensive and detailed NCIS data.

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