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(LEAD) Army noncommissioned officer in hospital after suicide attempts following sexual abuse

All News 16:09 August 24, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS Army's statement, National Asembly's law revision review in paras 6-9, 12-13)

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- An Army noncommissioned officer was hospitalized following multiple suicide attempts after suffering alleged sexual harassment and bullying by her colleagues, the victim's family has said, in yet another sex crime in barracks and the military's failure to protect the victim.

According to a petition posted on an online bulletin of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, the staff sergeant allegedly suffered sexual harassment, molestation and stalking by a sergeant first class of the same unit after rejecting his date offer upon commissioning in April last year.

After suffering months of harassment, the staff sergeant reported the case to her unit in August last year, and the alleged perpetrator was discharged the following month, but the victim's family said she had to sign an unwanted settlement due to pressure from her division.

According to the petition, the victim's unit failed to immediately separate the victim from the perpetrator, and the victim suffered bullying by other members of the unit after officially raising the issue.

(LEAD) Army noncommissioned officer in hospital after suicide attempts following sexual abuse - 1

"My once healthy sister has been in agony for over a year ... and after multiple suicide attempts, she is now at a psychiatric hospital for comprehensive treatment," the petition posted Friday said.

Still, the Army said the unit separated the perpetrator from the victim on Aug. 5, 2020, one day after receiving a report from the victim on the alleged harassment.

"The case has been transferred to the civilian prosecution as the victim first filed a complaint against the perpetrator in November last year, and a trial is underway," the military said in a statement.

The Army said its officials are looking into alleged secondary harm inflicted on the victim by other members of the unit, as well as whether its initial response was appropriate.

"The Army is sternly handling the case based on related regulations and procedures to root out sex crimes and to protect the victim," it said.

The petition came just a week after Defense Minister Suh Wook apologized over the apparent suicide of a female Navy noncommissioned officer amid allegations that a senior colleague sexually harassed her.

Three months earlier, an Air Force noncommissioned officer took her own life after she was sexually abused by a colleague of the same rank.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly's judiciary committee is deliberating a revision of the Military Court Act that calls for military sex crimes to be tried at civilian courts from the beginning, not by military courts.

The bill came amid criticism that under the current military court system, commanders have the authority to oversee military prosecutors and courts, leading to leniency towards offenders and marginalizing victims and even frequent cover-ups.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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