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[Newsmaker] Most victims of military sexual violence are low-ranking personnel

A service member mourns at a memorial altar on June 11, for a noncommissioned officer who took her own life after being sexually harassed by a colleague. (Yonhap)
A service member mourns at a memorial altar on June 11, for a noncommissioned officer who took her own life after being sexually harassed by a colleague. (Yonhap)
Most female victims of sexual violence in the military were soldiers and civilian workers of less than five years in service, government data showed.

A majority of the perpetrators were non-commissioned officers senior to their victims, and field officers, showing how sexual violence that involves taking advantage of one’s superior status at work was prevalent.

A total of 771 sexual offenses, ranging from harassment to rape, were committed against women in the military last year, according to a report by the Ministry of National Defense and the parliamentary committee on national defense released Monday.

Nearly 3 out of 5 female victims were sergeants first class and staff sergeants (58.6 percent); and 13.8 percent were civilian workers in the military.

Most of the sergeants first class, staff sergeants and civilian workers who were attacked had served less than five years in the military.

Some 12.6 percent of the female victims were captains, and 9.2 percent were first lieutenants and second lieutenants.

About half of the male perpetrators were senior non-commissioned officers (50.6 percent). Field officers -- majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels -- accounted for 23 percent of the male perpetrators.

The military needs a system that allows junior female officers and civilian workers to actively report sexual crimes and seek counseling, observers say.

Same-sex sexual violence rose from 260 cases in 2019 to 333 last year, although under Korean military law this can include consensual acts.

Most victims of sexual violence by same-sex perpetrators were enlisted soldiers (92.2 percent).

Some 82.6 percent of the same-sex perpetrators were also enlisted soldiers, followed by non-commissioned officers (13.8 percent).

Digital sex crimes within the military also rose from 111 cases in 2019 to 145 last year. Digital sex crimes include the possession, purchasing, storage or watching of images of sexual extortion.

Separately, in cases of sexual violence committed by soldiers against civilians, 60.1 percent of the perpetrators were enlisted soldiers and 24.2 percent were non-commissioned officers.

Most of the sexual violence against civilians took place in August when there is most contact between soldiers and civilians.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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