It has been seven years since Japan's antistalking law was promulgated. In 2008, a record-high 14,567 incidents were reported to police nationwide.
Writing in the business magazine Shukan Toyo Keizai (Jan 16), author Masaki Kubota reports that a survey conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department determined that, 84% of the 1,077 stalking victims under its jurisdiction in 2008 were female, with 76% in the 20 to 30 age bracket.
The Tokyo MPD survey also determined that in 57% of cases, the stalker was a person with whom the victim had, or had ceased to have, a relationship. Only 11% of the reported stalkers were complete strangers. Most typically, the accused sought a relationship (in one-third of the cases); followed the subject on the street, etc (24%); and telephoned the subject persistently (20%).
In cases when a suspected stalker disregards a warning from the police department or a restraining order from the local public security commission, he risks being charged under the antistalking law, which currently provides for up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 500,000 yen.
Consulting the police has been effective in a majority of cases. Police statistics maintain that official warnings were sufficient to ward off 90% of stalkers.
But the law is set up to crack down on offenders incrementally, which proved no help for Mitsue Hayakawa, 32, a company employee in Anjo City, Aichi Prefecture. After Hayakawa broke off her relationship with pachinko shop employee Toshinobu Sato, 31, he pursued her relentlessly. She appealed to the police; they issued a warning to Sato, who disregarded it. The police were readying the next step, and perhaps if they had acted sooner Hayakawa might still be alive today. But in March 2009 Sato attacked Hayakawa outside her home, punched her face and viciously trod on her head. The injuries proved fatal.
"I started to hate her after she'd reported me as a stalker," was Sato's justification.
Taking one's woes to the authorities may seem a sensible course of action, but a rejected suitor may perceive it as a declaration of war.
"When Ms Hayakawa was brutalized by Sato previously, the police urged her to file charges of assault, but she'd declined, saying 'I don't want him to be stigmatized as a criminal,'" a local reporter explains.
A more sensible strategy may be to retain an attorney who can insulate the victim from the stalker. That was the case of a 26-year-old event "companion" who had rejected the invitations of a 35-year-old salaryman. Warned that the man might be capable of violence, she consulted a lawyer.
"Her attorney sent him a bill via contents-certified post demanding she be compensated for her pain and suffering. This kind of bureaucratic attitude and use of a monetary amount worked to cool him off," Kubota was informed.
But when push comes to shove, contending with a stalker means girding for a "battle," Kubota advises. Even with laws in place, there's only so much that police can do. The target of a stalker also needs to grasp the potential risks and proactively adopt her (or his) own defensive measures.© Japan Today