As some of my readers may already be aware, late last year two men were accused of raping and robbing an Okinawan woman in her early 20’s. These two men, both active duty military members, were temporarily stationed in Okinawa for a training mission. The event took place the night before they were scheduled to depart.
Following the accusation of rape the US Forces Japan were put into a nation wide curfew and drinking ban. Although this move by the US was controversial it was not the first time that something like this has happened and was arguably less severe then in 2008 (if my memory serves me correctly) when US Forces in Okinawa were on complete lock down. (During this lock down military and civilians alike were not permitted in any off base establishments whatsoever. This included but was not limited to stores, shops, tourist attractions or restaurants.) This also did not stop the string of incidents which would follow.
The situation also pushed many of Okinawa’s residents, who were already upset about the deployment of the Osprey and relocation of Futenma within Okinawa, over the edge. The message at the already frequent protests was not only “Marines Go Home” and “No Osprey” but now included “No Rape”.
Those who serve in the military, and their families, also had their share to say about the situation. Although there were a great deal of people outraged and disgusted by these two men there were also a surprising amount who defended them. This was not limited to currently active military members on Okinawa either. One ex-military member who was never stationed in Okinawa and now lives in mainland Japan even went so far as to make a YouTube video which placed blame on the victim.
After a short while, and the occurrence of more crimes committed by US Military Members, the story fell from the front page and became a tag line at the end of related articles until recently.
The two men, Christopher Browning and Skyler Dozierwalker, were tried in a Naha court where they were charged as guilty of rape. During the trial prosecutors noted that Dozierwalker choked the victim from behind and forced her into a parking lot where she was then raped. This was confirmed by surveillance camera footage, presented as evidence, which caught the act on film. Christopher Browning was sentenced to ten years in prison and Skyler Dozierwalker was sentenced to nine years. Christopher Browning was also convicted of robbing the victim of 7000 yen (at today’s yen rate just under $75.00 US) Both men will serve their time in a Japanese prison.
This incident shook Okinawa and for many I am sure that it is a relief that these men have been tried and will serve time in prison. I am, however, of the opinion that there is more that needs to be discussed before this story turns into a distant memory.
I can’t help but wonder what is being done to prevent crimes like this from happening in the future. Are military members and their families really even aware of the consequences for their actions? To be honest I am not entirely sure and the military doesn’t have a very straight forward approach to these types of matters either. Just go ahead and check out the UCMJ. You’ll see that the consequence for an act of rape is:
“shall be punished as a court-martial may direct”.
What does that mean? Well that’s a great question. In fact as we’re seen in the case of some female service members being raped by their superiors it could mean just about anything or nothing. According to an article on this subject by the Air Force Times in November 2012:
“Military courts often have great flexibility in sentencing. . “
The article goes on to say that a military member who has been found guilty of rape could be fined or have a reduction in pay but ultimately committing this type of crime isn’t a career ender.
It is this answering questions without actually providing answers approach which I believe gives some military members and their families the illusion of being above or exempt from Japanese law. AFN Radio and TV are always showing ads about how you could be charged under the UCMJ but usually forget to mention that you could also be charged under Japanese Law. In fact reading about the Browning/Dozierwalker case there was only one out of about twenty articles that I read which mentioned that they will be serving time in a Japanese prison.
Only Time Will Tell
Unfortunately what happens next will only be told as time passes. My hope, although it might be wishful thinking, is that some changes be made. The sad reality is that with the rotation of people and management in and out of Okinawa will undoubtably put this story out of sight, out of mind until the two are released ten years from now.