Koreans Outraged By The Tragic Suicide Death Of A Female Air Force Sergeant Who Was Sexually Abused By Her Senior Officer

The Air Force faces national criticism for reportedly “trying to cover up the case” for the senior officer.

Content Warning

This article includes descriptions of sexual assault and suicide or self harm that may disturb some readers.

On May 22, a female Air Force officer, Sergeant A was found dead in her home on the Air Force base where she left behind a video of her death on a cellphone. As the nation mourns her death, new reports state that Sergeant A was sexually assaulted by a master sergeant, but the Air Force neglected the case and swept it under the rug.

Sergeant A | MBC News

The bereaved’s family members recently conducted an interview with MBC News where they shared that the deceased had been sexually assaulted by a fellow Air Force sergeant just a few months before she died by suicide. It was further revealed that Sergeant A filed a report to the Air Force headquarters after the assault had taken place. She pleaded that the trauma from the assault made it difficult for her to continue living, which was also confirmed to have been reported to the Air Force headquarters.

The Air Force police department secured the blackbox footage of the incident, where Sergeant A can be clearly heard resisting the sexual attack, “Please don’t do this. How are you going to face me in the future if you do?” Even with this evidence, the Air Force made no efforts to punish the assailant, nor did they make any hurried efforts to separate Sergeant A from her perpetrator. It was two weeks following the attack that the Air Force made the decision to transfer Sergeant A to another unit, where she was incessantly bullied for the incident.

Photo used for illustrative purposes | MBC News

During the interview with MBC News, Sergeant A‘s father shared what his daughter told him about the assault before she died by suicide.

The perpetrator asked her, ‘what does your car look like? Let’s go talk some more in your car’ after assaulting her the first time. My daughter didn’t say anything after that, but I have reason to believe that she was sexually assaulted a second time in the car…

— Sergeant A’s father

Following the assault, the perpetrator sent Sergeant A a threatening text message stating, “If you don’t forgive me, I will take my own life.” It was further reported that on the evening of the assault, the perpetrator invited Sergeant A out for a drink in an effort to “cover up” what he had done. According to MBC News, the perpetrator reportedly told Sergeant A that “It’s something that can happen anyone at any point in life. Let’s just cover it up this time.” Others present at the drinking gathering also downplayed the assault and asked Sergeant A to “Not file a report since the perpetrator would be transferred anyways.” 

Photo used by MBC News for illustrative purposes.

While the Air Force investigated the case internally, they are being accused of neglecting Sergeant A and for not handling the sexual assault reports seriously. Sergeant A is reported to have undergone 22 counseling sessions with a sexual grievance counselor following the attacks. During this time, Sergeant A is reported to have sent a text message to her counselor saying, “I want to take my own life.”  Just a couple weeks later, however, she was discharged with a diagnosis that stated Sergeant A was in a “much improved condition and showed no signs of suicidal tendencies.” 

Former Air Force Chief of Staff, Lee Sung Yong, who has since resigned | JoongAng

Reportedly, Sergeant A’s fiancé — also stationed in the same service branch — also received text messages and other forms of personal contact from the perpetrator’s supervising officials. These attempts had all been made to force the fiancé to convince Sergeant A from pursuing any further action against the perpetrator. Devastated by the Air Force’s lack of effort to help Sergeant A, the fiancé filed their marriage certificate in the morning of May 21 to become her official partner. Later that evening, Sergeant A died by suicide.

Photo of Sergeant A and her fiancé with their marriage license | MBC News

In the midst of the ongoing outrage regarding Sergeant A and the neglect shown by the Air Force, Sergeant A’s parents filed an official Blue House petition pleading for a deeper investigation into her case, which has received almost 350,000 signatures since the launch a few days ago. 

“Please investigate the unfair death of my beloved Air Force sergeant daughter.” | Blue House

Following the outcry, the South Korean president Moon Jae In ordered an investigation to be launched to fix Sergeant A‘s case, as well as an investigation for the officials who were in charge of handling her case.

The Air Force master sergeant who has been accused of sexually assaulting Sergeant A has since been arrested by Air Force officials on charges of violating the Criminal Act, which is “committing indecent acts by compulsion on a member of the military and causing injury.” Boo Seung Chan, an Air Force spokesperson confirmed the perpetrator’s arrest and shared that an “investigation is under way.”

Sergeant A’s assailant getting arrested | MBC News

Four days into the petition and the national criticism, the Air Force Chief of Staff Lee Sung Yong announced his resignation as of June 4 to take responsibility for his shortcomings in looking after Sergeant A. Regardless, Koreans remain perpetually disappointed in the military and the government’s “continued failure to protect the country’s sexually abused victims.”

| theqoo

Source: Newsis, MBC, Hankyung (1) and (2), Hani and theqoo