A former medical officer who claims to have been a victim of sexual assault when she served in the military on the outlying island of Kinmen more than 20 years ago shared her story on Armed Forces Day yesterday and called for changes in the military to encourage victims like her to seek help and justice.
The woman, who identified herself only as “Sister Orchid,” called for more public attention to sexual assaults in the military and for efforts to end such crimes.
“The military really has to change” to make the system more friendly to people who wish to file complaints and more responsive to such requests, she said while launching a book about her past at an event in Taipei organized by the Garden of Hope Foundation, a women’s rights group.
“Sister Orchid” traces her ordeal back to 1989, when she left her husband and children behind on Taiwan proper to serve at a military hospital on Kinmen, and later fell victim to an attack by a battalion commander at an army base on the island.
She said she chose to keep the matter to herself at that time for fear of being accused by the military of misconduct and to avoid gossip by her colleagues.
Out of concern for her family, she said she even held the matter back from her husband after she was transferred to the Taichung Armed Forces General Hospital in 1990.
For the next few years, she said she lived with tremendous trauma that made her mentally unstable and resulted in rifts in her marriage, which eventually fell apart. She retired from the military in 1993.
She said did not find support until she met social workers at the foundation in 2010, with whose help she rose above her traumatic experience.
The Ministry of National Defense responded by urging the former officer to bring her case to a prosecutors’ office that has jurisdiction over the matter, adding it has no evidence or information on her being subject to sexual assaults.
According to statistics from the ministry, there were 161 sexual assaults involving military personnel between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2011, with male assailants in each case.
Of the 17 victims who were attacked on military premises, 11 were male and the other six were female.
The 144 remaining victims were civilians who were assaulted off-base, the data showed.