Rina Gonoi
Shiho Fukada for The Washington Post/Getty Images

Japan officially lives in the Reiwa era, which means “order and harmony.” But Rina Gonoi may have broken that “order and harmony” for good—in more ways than one—when she became an advocate against sexual abuse. Rina’s dream as a child was to serve in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces following her rescue by female soldiers after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

That dream turned into a nightmare when she experienced sexual violence while serving, and then struggled to report the violence in an institution where more than 90% of soldiers are male. She left the military in 2022, and bravely launched a public campaign to demand truth and accountability. The resulting wave of support pushed officials to take action, launching a larger investigation into cases of harassment within the military, and prompted countless other women to come forward with their own stories. In Japanese society, speaking up about sexual violence has long been a taboo, but Rina’s courage has kicked the door open for all survivors.

Ito is a journalist, filmmaker, and gender-rights advocate

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