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Few authorities know how to deal with rape victims in Japan

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A 13-year-old Tokyo girl left alone at home one night ventures out and is raped by a man she doesn’t know. Yomiuri Weekly (May 4) hears the story from hospital nurse Hiroko Mitamura, who -- with reason -- believes the girl was lucky to end up under her care. The fact is, the magazine finds, very few medical and legal professionals know how to deal with rape victims. Mitamura herself didn’t until eight years ago, when she encountered a group called SANE.

It stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. It originated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1976 and was introduced into Japan in 2000. Clearly, it’s an organization whose time has come. But to return to the girl.

The police, when she went to them, were unhelpful. “What were you doing out at that hour?” they demanded.

Details of what followed are sketchy, but by the time Mitamura saw her, it was too late to extract the physical evidence that would substantiate assault charges. Another problem was the girl’s mother, who seemed aloof and indifferent. Mitamura knew from a course of SANE lectures what her first task was, and she quickly set about it. “I said to her, ‘You have suffered terribly. But what happened was not your fault.’”

She then proceeded to make arrangements on the girl’s behalf with a children’s welfare facility.

And yet, says Mitamura, “There was a time when I myself wouldn’t have known what to do. I myself would have admonished her for being out in the street at night: ‘Didn’t it occur to you that it’s dangerous?’ Implicitly I would have blamed her.”

Working in a Tokyo hospital emergency ward, she treated numerous rape victims, and the more of them she saw the less certain she grew that her attitude -- the conventional attitude -- was appropriate. When she heard in 2000 that the non-profit organization Women’s Health and Safety Center was sponsoring SANE’s maiden lecture series in Japan, she decided to attend. The program consists of 40 hours of lectures over the course of a year, themes ranging from the physical and mental effects of rape to the special approach required when the victim is a child. Mitamura was one of Japan’s first graduates.

In 2006, says Yomiuri Weekly, there were 1,984 reported rapes nationwide, and an estimated 10 times as many unreported ones. A government survey that same year found 144 of 1578 women surveyed -- 7.2% -- claiming to have at least once submitted against their will to sexual force. The vast majority suffer in silence, with consequences, sometimes lifelong, including insomnia, depression and loss of appetite.

Dr Shizuko Sasaki is director of the Matsushima Hospital in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward. The Matsushima is Japan’s only 24-hour-a-day hospital for rape victims. Sasaki opened it in 1991, but she’d been thinking about a facility along those lines since 1980, when she assisted a woman suing a hospital for needlessly removing her ovaries. Since then, she says, “I wanted to develop a kind of gynecology based entirely on the female point of view.”

She designed training programs with the aid of a Canadian specialist in problems arising from sexual violence, and was instrumental in bringing SANE to Japan. Beginning in 1998, she got the word out to Tokyo police: the Matsushima never closed; day or night, any rape victims they encountered should be brought there.

Sasaki and another staff member live within five minutes of the hospital, and are perpetually on call. They see 30 rape victims on average a year, offering medical treatment and counseling and giving each patient as much time as she needs. This isn’t likely to become standard nationwide procedure any time soon. But it is a hopeful symbol of progress.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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No surprises here.

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Wish the gov could help spread and fund this all over japan

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All victims have the partial culpability factor hanging over their heads. And rape is no exception. A guy goes fishing when a typhoon is coming what does society say when he needs to be rescued. Police always question the victim for culpability - see road accidents involving one or more cars, see gunshot victims - were you playing with the gun/where were you standing? The crime of rape consists in the unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent (in Japanese law). When most victims simply walk into a police station days after the alleged attack there is little sympathy the police will offer. A rape kit cannot be used, evidence can hardly be collected, the crime scene is no longer possible to examine... the chances of the crime of false accussation grow. If more women advocates pushed women to join the police in greater numbers the ability to carry out immediate examination to prove the crime did occur as reported grow. In many countries rape task teams comprise of women investigators. Japan has so few police women that at the moment they are making justice for their own kind near impossible to deliver.

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In 2006, says Yomiuri Weekly, there were 1,984 reported rapes nationwide, and an estimated 10 times as many unreported ones. A government survey that same year found 144 of 1578 women surveyed—7.2%—claiming to have at least once submitted against their will to sexual force. The vast majority suffer in silence, with consequences, sometimes lifelong, including insomnia, depression and loss of appetite.

Another proud example of Japan as the "safety country."

And to think that Japan Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said several years ago, when he was Chief Cabinet Secretary that men are like black panthers and, if a woman tempts them, well, the genki guys just cannot control themselves sometimes.

Maybe one of these days Japan will stop making so many rape-themed adult videos, too.

Sasaki and another staff member live within five minutes of the hospital, and are perpetually on call. They see 30 rape victims on average a year, offering medical treatment and counseling and giving each patient as much time as she needs. This isn’t likely to become standard nationwide procedure any time soon. But it is a hopeful symbol of progress.

Progress is progress, though, even if it only comes in small increments. Hopefully more hospital staff members nationwide will get this training, too.

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I'm personally of the opinion that all cops and health care workers should have to undergo mandatory training on how to deal with rape victims. It should be standard training in order to become a cop or a caregiver. No more second rapes!

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A man visits a women's home. He rapes her. 'No crime' has been committed under Japanese law because she voluntarily allowed him to enter her home. A women visits a man's home. He rapes her. 'No crime' has been committed under Japanese law because she volutarily decided to enter his home.

This is the Japanese legel system at its worst.

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Yeah, its the mentality that its the womans fault that she was raped that bothers me the most about this.

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I suppose living in Japan does bring new meaning to the view that "it is a man's world"

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It's barbaric backward thinking.

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If Jpn were not an island I imagine most if not all women wud have just picked up & left ages ago, sometimes this place isnt even 3rd world.

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I'm not putting Japan as other 3d world countries ' But they sure are acting like them when it comes to women ' There are nations in the world who do not respect women and Japan is no different ' This young girl getting rape and the police chastise her for being outside ' We have to be sensitive and caring ' Wake up Japan! We are in the 21st Century not the 12th century '

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"The Americans wrote the constitution and they should be blamed for the spread of violence, drugs and crime. All of this is imported."

You realize, don't you, that you are basically saying you believe Japanese are incapable of thinking for themselves.

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few authorities know how to deal with ANYTHING in japan

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Few authorities know how to deal with rape victims in Japan

Any reason why they can't identify a foreign jurisdiction that DOES successfully deal with victims and prosecution, and just do it that way?

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Sad situation. When I decided to go to Japan alone last year my tutor thought I was out of my mind, not to mention my firends. She is a Japanese from Osaka area. She walked me through everything I should do while there for safety. Most was common sense but I was actually going with the impression that it was the safest place for a single female to go. I guess it could have happened to me walking the streets late at night.

I asked a guy I met if Japanese males are close to their mothers like him and knowing what they went through, why is it that they do not teach them how to treat women. His answer was "I don't know!"

Japanese is still a young country with respect to democracy. Maybe with time this will change.

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What does democracy have to do with the subject of rape? Rape is prosecuted in non -democratic states as well. And who made this ridiculous statement? 'The Americans wrote the constitution and they should be blamed for the spread of violence, drugs and crime. All of this is imported." Yes, Macarthur's staff wrote the Japanese constitution and as soon as the occupation was over, succeeding Diets and legislated it away. Blame the Diet for lack of fair treatment under the law. In the US, the Constitution is interpreted by both letter and spirit of the law, not merely rewritten without public conscent.

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Excellent that this topic has been introduced, this could be one of the many seeds that fruit more attention to Rape in Japan....Try to bring the positive instead of focusing on the negative... great that this is receiving attention, dont let it end with this discussion. Peace!

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