Bullying is rampant. Domestic violence is rising. There’s extortion, stalking, reckless driving. What can a victim do? Who can he or she turn to? School authorities? The police? With what evidence? If none, there’s not much either can do. It’s simply the victim’s word against the alleged perpetrator’s.
Josei Seven (Sept 20) suggests a far-reaching solution: secret recording devices, perpetually switched on.
Their merit is their ability to produce evidence that can’t be ignored. Their demerit is less easy to put your finger on, and Josei Seven doesn’t try, but its readers perhaps will not fail to be chilled by the implications of being under constant surveillance, everywhere and always – even at home, though they may not know it.
Case in point: The mother of a junior high school boy suspected her son was being bullied by classmates, shaken down for money. She worked during the day, and could not keep an eye on things. But a camera could. She had one secretly installed. It furnished the evidence she needed. The extortion was occurring at home, when no adults were present. The camera brought the case to a conclusion.
Domestic violence is nightmarish, and the police’s unwillingness to get involved seems at times to put their effectiveness in question, but they have their point of view too, says former police officer and current crisis management consultant Hiroshi Sasaki. “The police are chronically shorthanded,” he tells Josei Seven. “They can’t act before the commission of an actual crime.” ]
Even then, it’s not always possible for them to move. A physical attack by an abusive spouse may well produce bruises, if not worse symptoms. But what does a bruise prove? If the spouse denies involvement and is known in the neighborhood as an easygoing person, which is often the case, it’s simply the victim’s word against the spouse’s. If the spouse says the victim fell down the stairs, the police may suspect but can’t assume that it’s a lie.
Unless, of course, the attack is on video.
Yes, but, the reader instinctively demurs, is everything in our lives to be recorded? The answer, with surprisingly few reservations, is yes. The legal exceptions, says lawyer Mayumi Matsushita, pertain mostly to other people’s homes or property. You can’t, for instance, plant a bug in your lover’s apartment or car to check on his or her fidelity. But in your own home, it seems, your rights are pretty much unlimited. There, says Matsushita, secretly recording your guests’ conversation is “not a violation of their rights.” That may be true legally, but from a purely social or personal point of view, readers will have to decide whether they’d want to pay visits to their friends on those terms.
That is not to make light of the hazards recording is meant to avert. And as Matsushita says, “If (recording) is not secret, it won’t accomplish much. Since there’s no other way to gather evidence, if it were made illegal, we would be unable to protect ourselves and our families.”© Japan Today