On March 5 at an apartment complex in Osaka’s Naniwa Ward, a female resident of the building got on the elevator. Moments later, a man in his 30s also entered and, once the doors had closed on them, proceeded to molest the woman, groping her breast.
After the incident was reported, Osaka police tweeted a crime report on their public Twitter account, which included a warning to women in the area: “Please do not take an elevator alone with a man.”
We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that this was meant to be a concerned, helpful tweet encouraging women to play it safe, though a number of Internet users in Japan immediately voiced their objections to the remark, including:
“It’s impossible to never end up on an elevator alone with another man.” “Stop trying to force responsibility on the victim. If you want to ‘prevent crime’, then make announcements to help control assault.” “Sooner or later people are going to start wanting women-only elevators.”
The final comment here is in reference to the “Women Only” train cars seen in a number of Japanese cities, which have at times become a topic of debate themselves. It is highly unlikely that we’ll be debating women-only elevators anytime soon, but it does beg the question: what can be done to prevent assaults like this, which are still happening all too frequently?
Hiroshima prefectural police, who have advised women similarly regarding taking elevators alone with men, suggest too, should an unknown man approach to take the same elevator, allow the man to ride first, and wait for the next elevator instead. They also advise women to call their family when they are near home to have someone come down to wait for them on the first floor and accompany them on the elevator and into their apartment.
Kazuko Hirakawa, board chairman of the Sexual Assault Relief Center of Tokyo (SARC), however, warns that advice like this could lead to people blaming the victims, or even the victims blaming themselves rather than their attackers.
Osaka prefectural police later gave a more detailed explanation regarding their hugely unpopular tweet.
“We do whatever is in our power to find and arrest suspects of sexual assault, use various means to prevent such crimes from happening, and do what we can to support the victims. Regarding the tweet that was made in relation to the molestation incident in an apartment elevator, it was simply a caution to women, not a forceful demand to defend themselves. Due to the limited number of characters Twitter allows per post, we couldn’t explain fully, but we issued the warning as a suggestion to give women a means to avoid becoming victims.”
Hirakawa says that it’s difficult for an organization like SARC to get behind that sort of suggestion, “because not all men are scary beings.” She suggests installing things like “criminal alarms” ("bohan beru") and surveillance cameras inside elevators instead.
Sexual assault, like all other crimes, is something that will likely never go away completely, but hopefully with more awareness and more facilities to help deter criminals, incidents like this one will become a rarity.
Source: Yahoo! Japan News
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