Investigation confirms immense pressure on Air Force sexual abuse victim to forget incident

SEOUL– For the late Air Force noncommissioned officer who killed herself 80 days after suffering sexual abuse, the nightmarish groping and touching were just the beginning of yet another torment: immense pressure from colleagues to forget it, an investigation showed Friday.

According to the defense ministry’s interim investigation report, the victim came under repeated pressure and threats after she was groped and molested by a colleague of the same rank during a car ride after an office dinner on the night of March 2.

After she got out of the car, the suspect, surnamed Jang, followed her and asked in a menacing way if she was going to report the case to authorities. Jang also sent a threatening text message the following day “I’ve been thinking of killing myself all day long,” according to the investigation.

She reported the incident to a warrant officer the following day, but the officer threatened her to drop the case, saying: “If you report the case, all the others who were there will also be punished. You will also get hurt,” according to the report.

The warrant officer also tried to silence her about previous sexual abuse cases, the report showed.

The victim also reported the incident to a senior master sergeant, surnamed Noh, but he asked her in his car if she could forget the case, out of fear that he could be punished for hosting the dinner in violation of COVID-19 quarantine guidelines, according to the investigation.

Noh also used his position to coax the fiancee of the victim, also an Air Force member, into persuading her to reach a settlement with the suspect, according to the ministry.

The suspect and the three members were indicted for intimidation charges.

“Though she reported her suffering multiple times, MSgt. Lee was not properly protected by the military and sustained additional damage, such as intimidation, placation and the distribution of her sufferings to others, which led her to take her own life on May 21,” the ministry said.

In a memo she left behind and known to the media by the bereaved family, Lee said she was “abandoned by the organization.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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