Red Blooded Americans Can Rape, Murder With Little to No Punishment; Going on Everywhere Our Military is Stationed
U.S. Marine Corps Sexual Violence on Okinawa
February 1, 2018
Volume 16 | Issue 3 | Number 4
Article ID 5112
Antonieta Rico, “Why Military Women Are Missing from the #MeToo Moment,” TIME, December 12,
Department of Defense, Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (2016), Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response Office, May 1, 2017.
For example, see Jon Mitchell, “Environmental Contamination at USMC bases on Okinawa,” Asia-Pacific
Journal, Vol. 15, Issue 4, Number 2. February 15, 2017; Kyodo, “Japan says U.S. military aircraft mishaps
more than doubled in 2017,” The Japan Times, January 23, 2018.
Irvin Molotsky, “Admiral Has to Quit Over His Comments On Okinawa Rape,” New York Times,
November 18, 1995.
Kyodo, “Former U.S. base worker gets life in prison for murder of Okinawa woman,” The Japan Times,
December 1, 2017.
For example, see “Okinawa Beigun Kichi to Seihanzai” (Okinawa bases and sexual offenses), TBS News,
November 25, 2017; Jon Mitchell, “Beigun Seihanzai: Shinkoku na Jittai, Keibi na Shobun” (U.S. military
sexual offences: The true picture, light punishments), Okinawa Times, November 25, 2017.
Ryota Shimabukuro, “U.S. military crime’s low indictment rates appear affected by secret agreement,”
Ryukyu Shimpo, December 11, 2017.
“EDITORIAL: Full review of SOFA is needed, particularly over jurisdiction,” Asahi Shimbun, January 19,
Reminder: Submissions to Cornell University’s 2021 Selden Prize Competition for translations from Japanese is coming up fast! Materials may be submitted
electronically or by hard copy by August 1. Translations of works from across all time periods and genres are welcomed! For details see the prize
announcement at: http://asianstudies.cornell.edu/selden-prize
As revelations of sexual assaults and harassment roil the worlds of politics, sports and entertainment, one
institution has largely escaped media and public scrutiny: the U.S. military.1
According to the Department of Defense’s most recent report, in 2016 approximately 40 service members
were sexually assaulted every day. The Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military estimates 14,900
service members – 8,600 women and 6,300 men – experienced sexual assaults in 2016.2
Approximately 68% of those attacked did not report the offense.
Military victims of sexual assault face numerous institutional obstacles to receiving justice. The ultimate
decision whether to prosecute suspects remains with the base commander. Perpetrators strike agreements
which allow them to admit to lesser charges – often non-sexual – or to receive lighter punishments. In 2016,
the U.S. military held only 389 courts-martial for those accused of sexual offenses. As a result, 261 service
members were convicted – but only 124 of these were actually punished for sexual offenses; the remainder
were convicted of lesser offenses such as non-sexual assault or disobeying orders.
Moreover, 58% of victims who reported sexual offenses claimed to have suffered retribution, including
professional reprisal and ostracism.
Despite this pervasive problem, the media has failed to adopt the issue in the same way it has reported on
the #MeToo movement.
Colonel Don Christensen is former Chief Prosecutor of the U.S. Air Force and current President of Protect
Our Defenders, the U.S. organization leading campaigns to reduce military sexual assaults and overhaul
the operation of the military justice system. He attributes the media’s silence on the matter to two key
“First, military victims do not feel they can speak out without being punished by the military. Whether
explicitly or implicitly, military leadership makes it clear victims should not be speaking to the media
about their #MeToo moment.”
Christensen also blames the military’s lack of transparency: “Because the military justice system is so
foreign to the rest of the country and so opaque, many journalists simply don’t understand the enormity of
These factors have combined to create a situation in which there is a lack of coverage of the scale of sexual
assaults in today’s U.S. military, a silence which extends to service members stationed overseas.
USMC on Okinawa
For the first time, internal military reports reveal that sexual violence is endemic among the USMC on
Okinawa. The Japanese prefecture is host to 11 major USMC installations and, although precise numbers
are not publicized, approximately 20,000 marines. For decades, local residents have decried the
concentration of USMC installations on their island (in contrast mainland Japan has only two USMC bases)
due to their environmental damage and ever-present risk of accidents.3
Major USMC installations on Okinawa April 2014. USMC
Among local residents’ largest concerns has been sexual violence committed by the marines.
In the most infamous case, in 1995 two marines and a sailor from Camp Hansen, Kin Town, abducted and
raped a 12-year old Okinawan girl. Public fury was exacerbated by subsequent comments from the
commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Richard C. Macke, suggesting it would have been cheaper
for the rapists to pay for a prostitute than to rent the car they drove to abduct the girl. Macke was forced to
resign over the comments.3
More recently, in April 2016, former marine Kenneth Shinzato raped and murdered a 20-year old
Okinawan woman. In December 2017, a Japanese court sentenced him to life in prison.4
Until now, it has been difficult to grasp the true extent of sexual violence within the USMC on Okinawa.
However, following a year-long investigation which has been making headlines in Japan, it has now
become possible to obtain a fuller picture of the problem.5
USMC courts-martial records from Okinawa show that 65 marines have been imprisoned for sexual
offenses since 2015. Case files from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) reveal many more
incidents are not proceeding to trial and, even in cases where charges are pursued, perpetrators often
receive minor punishments or none at all. These NCIS records also detail previously-unreported offenses
targeting Japanese civilians, including children. The problem appears to have reached the very top of the
USMC in Japan. In 2017, the Inspector General of the USMC criticized leading Okinawa marines for failing
to report a fellow officer for numerous offenses including sexual harassment; the perpetrator went on to
molest a six-year old girl in the U.S.
According to USMC courts-martial records obtained from USMC Headquarters, between January 2015 and
December 2017, 65 U.S. marines were imprisoned at courts-martial on Okinawa for sexual offenses
targeting adults, children and, in one case, an unknown number of animals.
19 of those imprisoned targeted adults in acts including sexual assault and forcible sodomy. Sentences
included several months to several years imprisonment followed by Bad Conduct or Dishonorable
Discharges. 46 marines targeted children, including cases of actual and attempted sexual assault,
possession and production of child pornography. The majority of offenders received military prison terms
of approximately two or three years followed by Bad Conduct or Dishonorable Discharges.
Among those punished, the highest-ranking was Lieutenant Colonel M. M. Farrell. At a court-martial in
September 2016, he was found guilty of offenses including attempted receipt of child pornography and
attempted sexual assault of a child. He received a five-year prison term reduced to 30 months due to a pretrial agreement.
Similarly, in March 2017, another pre-trial agreement allowed Gunnery Sergeant M. C. Lowry to avoid a
40-year sentence for offenses including sexual abuse and assault of a child. Instead, he received 20 years in
a military prison.
The USMCHQ records also reveal that the USMC on Okinawa held the dubious distinction of conducting
the only court-martial for bestiality throughout the USMC between 2015 and 2017. As a result, the service
member, Lance Corporal M. A Ruiz, received a two-year sentence and Dishonorable Discharge; his offenses
also included possession and production of child pornography.
NCIS case files
NCIS reports, obtained via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, show that many marines investigated
between 2015 and 2016 on suspicion of committing sexual offences on Okinawa were either not brought to
trial or received only minor punishments.
In many of these cases, no charges were brought against the suspect for reasons including lack of evidence
or the victim deciding not to participate in the NCIS investigation which, in some cases, took more than six
months to complete.
Marines accused of committing sexual assaults were often punished for lesser offenses such as non-sexual
assault, disobeying orders or adultery.
In one case on 11 April 2015, a male marine sexually assaulted a female marine twice in their barracks by
groping her breasts, genitals and biting her. Witnesses had to knock him unconscious to halt the attack.
However, he only received a minor punishment for assault and drunk and disorderly conduct.
On 11 December 2015, a male marine was tried at a court-martial for an attack on a female marine in which
she claimed she was vaginally-raped, suffered an attempted anal rape and received injuries to her ribs. The
perpetrator was found guilty of violation of a general order, assault and adultery; there was no conviction
related to sexual assault. He received 30 days in the brig, a demotion and pay-cut but was apparently
allowed to remain in the military.
One of the most disturbing cases occurred in June 2015 when a USMC master sergeant sexually assaulted a
seven-year old girl, the daughter of a U.S. service member, in the hallway of a housing block at Camp
Courtney, Uruma City. According to the NCIS report, the marine approached the girl while she was
playing with her friends, attempted to lift the girl’s dress then stuck his fingers in her mouth until she
NCIS photograph of the military housing block on USMC Camp Courtney
where the June 2015 assault took place. NCIS
Inside the USMC housing block where the June 2015 assault occurred. NCIS
Under a pre-trial agreement in which the marine promised to retire from the military, he was able to avoid
charges of sexual assault of a minor and instead plead guilty to a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct
while on active duty. The only punishment he received was a six-month pay-cut.
In May 2016, a marine was investigated for the alleged sexual assault of two children after they had been
brought to the emergency room of a military hospital on the island. Photographic evidence related to the
incidents was discovered on the marine’s mobile telephone but he was only punished for adultery. He
received an Other Than Honorable Discharge.
The NCIS reports suggest the USMC on Okinawa is particularly loath to punish marines accused of maleon-male sexual offenses. On 8 February 2015, a male marine claimed he was awoken by his roommate
anally raping him and he repeatedly told the assailant to stop. The attacker was found not guilty at a courtmartial despite admitting to having sex with his roommate who he described as severely inebriated.
In another male-on-male case, on 23 March 2015, a male marine confessed to having sexually assaulted a
number of fellow male marines – including one whom he said he had drugged and tied up. The selfconfessed serial rapist then threatened to kill the person in whom he had confided. No action was taken
because the U.S. military judged the claims unfounded.
In at least one case, the failure to sufficiently investigate or punish the suspected wrongdoer allowed him
to re-offend. On 9 August 2015, a male marine was accused of raping a female marine on Camp Courtney.
Prior to the assault, he had been investigated twice by the NCIS for sexual offences. This time, he received
a Bad Conduct Discharge on the grounds of failure to obey an order, assault and adultery. There were no
sexual assault convictions.
Christensen of Protect Our Defenders believes that service members stationed overseas may be particularly
susceptible to sexual violence.
“Most young military members have never lived in a foreign country and they often feel isolated and are
homesick. The isolation can lead to vulnerabilities resulting in sexual assault. At the same time the male
service members may feel they are operating under a different set of rules and feel less constrained in their
Between 2015 and 2016, marines on Okinawa targeted Japanese civilians, including children, in at least
four previously unpublicized sexual offense cases, according to the NCIS files. Two of the cases involved
violent sexual attacks on adult women; another marine apparently exposed himself on two occasions
outside schools near Camp Hansen.
According to the documents, in 2015, a Japanese base employee was raped by a marine from the III Marine
Expeditionary Force (III MEF). The victim reported the attack to the USMC Criminal Intelligence Division
who then notified NCIS agents. The victim agreed to cooperate in the NCIS investigation but she declined
to participate in an investigation by Japanese police.
A medical check by military doctors revealed that the rape had left the victim with internal injuries. The
suspect was detained and admitted to the attack. He then was placed in confinement to await trial.
During the subsequent NCIS investigation, which apparently took four months to conduct, the victim
decided she no longer wanted to participate in the proceedings.
According to the NCIS report, the marine then “elected a separation in lieu of trial.” He received an Other
Than Honorable Discharge but no other punishment.
According to Department of Defense data, in 2016, a total of 133 suspected sexual offenders selected to quit
the military instead of facing a court-martial. The system has been condemned by many in the U.S. for
allowing admitted criminals to walk free and possibly evade the U.S. system whereby sex offenders
register on state or federal databases.
In 2016, another U.S. marine committed a violent sexual assault on a female civilian visiting a base on
Okinawa. The NCIS case file describes how the marine physically assaulted the woman at least three times
before attempting to rape her. After the woman fought him off, he fled the scene. He was arrested by
military police and placed in pre-trial confinement.
The incident report describes the woman as a resident of Tokyo but it does not specify her nationality.
After the assault, the victim informed Japanese police she did not want to participate in the prosecution of
the perpetrator. As a result, the marine was allowed to plead guilty to non-sexual assault charges as a Non
Judicial Punishment, a system usually reserved for minor offences. He then apparently received an
administrative discharge from the military.
Further evidence of how USMC sexual pred