JPRI Critique Vol. VI No. 2 (February 1999)
Raped (by the Cops) in Tokyo
by Raelyn Campbell

Do Asian Women Count?
by Sheila K. Johnson



Raped (by the Cops) in Tokyo
by Raelyn Campbell

I was raped. It happened in Japan, reportedly one of the safest countries in the world. I was raped not by the man who attacked me, but by the organization that repeatedly violated my rights after the incident while being ostensibly responsible for protecting me: the Japanese police. I find it difficult to believe that I was their first victim; but by raising public awareness, I hope to be their last.

On the day of the attack, the perpetrator followed me home and climbed the emergency stairs while I rode the elevator to my third-floor apartment. I had returned home in mid-afternoon to pick up my suitcase on the way to the airport when the man, a total stranger, charged at me as I started to enter my apartment.

I found the strength to fight him off, and was even able to catch him after chasing him down three flights of stairs and through the streets of my neighborhood. I then managed single-handedly to drag him back to my landlord's office after passersby ignored my pleas to call the police.

The officers who came to the scene assured me that they would deal with the man "severely" after I recounted what had happened. Since I was scheduled to leave on a 5-day trip home to the U.S. that evening, I gave them my mobile and office phone numbers in Tokyo so they could keep me or my colleagues informed of the results of their investigation. I heard nothing.

While there should have been no question about my intent to pursue the issue, when I visited the police department the day after I returned to Japan I was told that because my interest in filing charges "could not be confirmed," all they had done on the day of the incident was to have the offender write a report and a statement. The investigators emphasized repeatedly that because they had processed the case in this way, it would be "inconvenient" if I were now to insist on filing charges.

The police also stressed how remorseful the perpetrator had been. But the only part of his statement that seemed to convey any sense of sincere regret was his reference to my "nabbing" him. The man also confessed to nothing more than trying to touch my bottom. In reality, he threw me against my door and onto the ground. He tried to touch me in many places, and it was assuredly not my backside he was after.

Despite my having explained all of this in fluent Japanese on the day of the incident, the police reduced my account to "she had her bottom touched," and processed the case as a minor molestation incident. When I questioned their handling of the case, they tried to convince me that "unless skin is touched, the only law that applies is the municipal molestation ordinance." This ordinance is invoked in cases where women complain of being touched through their clothing in public places such as parks or crowded trains and buses. Not only was my incident quite different and more serious, but the fact that it occurred on private property should have precluded the application of this ordinance from the outset.

I next questioned the propriety of the police's revealing my name, address and other personal information to the perpetrator, a pervert who had acknowledged stalking and attacking me. They denied this until I pointed out that it was included in the man's hand-written statement. As their defense, they assured me that "he probably won't remember." Brushing aside my apprehensions, they explained that they didn't think such a "weak-willed person" would strike again, and asserted that he had already sustained "considerable damage"--namely, a phone call to his employer and a police record "for next time."

The investigators next alluded to the futility of prosecution, asserting that my efforts would only yield a small fine (reportedly, up to about ¥50,000). They joked that "for the price of the fine, he could have gotten a lot more downtown." In other words, they likened what happened to me to the hiring of a prostitute, displaying not only unconscionable obtuseness but a total lack of awareness that sexual crimes are acts of violence committed against a woman's will, and not related to either monetary sexual transactions or consensual male-female relations.

I went to a lawyer. When the police investigator finally called me in for a statement three weeks after the incident, I was informed for the first time that my case would require a doctor's certificate attesting to any injuries sustained. I asked why I had not been informed of this earlier, since I had indeed suffered a sprained wrist, bruised hip-bone and several abrasions. Despite the fact that there were two on-the-scene eye-witnesses to my injuries, the police officers now claimed they had noticed nothing.

After he took pictures of the remaining scrapes, the investigator requested a full-body shot "for the criminal to confirm you were the victim." I refused. When I also balked at the idea of posing for the on-scene crime reconstruction photos the investigator broke into a tirade: "This is how it is done in Japan! I cannot understand you Americans!"

The officers' report conspicuously mimicked erroneous portions of the perpetrator's statement--down to claiming that I was wearing "a floral print jacket," not something to be found in my office wardrobe. Their account also failed to mention the details of the crime that I recounted on the day of the incident. Given that their report was written a month after the attack, I asked for an opportunity to meet directly with the policemen to help them "remember." My request was refused.

The case was eventually forwarded to the Prosecutor's Office. When I was called in for further questioning, I was informed for the first time that the prosecutor had the right to waive indictment at his own discretion, even though the man had admitted to the crime. Indecent assault is a felony in Japan and carries a jail term of 6 months to 7 years (Penal Code, Art. 176). In the event the crime results in injury, as in my case, the prescribed sentence is 3 years to life (Art. 181).

The Prosecutor's Office has indicated that it is leaning against indictment. The reasons given: the perpetrator had no prior record; he showed "above average candidness" in the investigation; and he "did not seem like the type to repeat the offense." The prosecutor also felt that it might not be in the best interest of society to brand the man as a criminal because he helped support his parents.

The entrance to the police department is boldly decorated with a banner that reads: "Courage to Speak Out Without Hesitation -- The First Step." But I have to wonder, is it really worth speaking out if one's voice falls on deaf ears? Even if my case was exceptional, there are serious problems not only with the handling of sex crimes in Japan, but also with the legal system itself. For example, unlike other countries, Japan lacks legislation protecting a victim's rights. Thus a defendant has a right to know the plaintiff's name and address even in the case of a sexual offense.

Official crime rates in Japan are famously low. Government figures show only 1,687 cases of rape and indecent assault were presented to the courts last year. However, the Ministry of Justice informed me that it "does not keep" data on estimates of unreported cases or on incidents that are reported without charges being filed. Without an indictment, my case will become a statistical non-event as well. A system that discourages prosecution and requires victims to put themselves in further danger may ensure that the statistics don't rise, but can Japan truly be called safe?

RAELYN CAMPELL worked for a Japanese Diet member as a policy aide for the past three years. She also studied for several years in the faculty of law at the University of Tokyo.



Do Asian Women Count?
by Sheila K. Johnson

Anyone who attended Christmas and New Year's parties in the U.S. this past year can attest to the fact that the number one topic of conversation and jokes was President Clinton and his legal problems. Democrat or Republican, sad or glad, blue-nosed or raunchy, everyone seemed to have an opinion, much like commenting on the weather.

So it did not greatly surprise me when I found a group of Asian specialists vigorously debating Clinton's predicament and Speaker-of-the-House-Designate-and-Suddenly-Resigned Representative Livingston's revelations that he, too, had on numerous occasions "strayed from his marriage." What exactly does this euphemism encompass, some of the commentators wondered. 'Having an affair,' usually implies a somewhat longer relationship than a one-night stand. If someone has strayed from his marriage on numerous occasions, does this mean he's had several long-standing mistresses, or are we talking about someone like John F. Kennedy, who seems to have had a string of sexual liaisons of greater and lesser duration.

At this point, a woman scholar who often travels to Asia and who teaches international business management, raised the interesting question, "Do Asian women count?" She was thinking, of course, of the business junkets her CEOs and most politicians engage in, which often wind up in bars, geisha houses, and other less savory establishments. When politicians confess their sins in public, or claim to be pure as the driven snow, are they counting or discounting the numerous occasions they've strayed from their marriages in Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong and (one hears, increasingly) Shanghai?

I was reminded of the mid-1960s, when I lived in Hong Kong and attended a party given by the U.S. Consul General, the dignified and courtly Edward Rice. He had just finished dancing attendance on Otto Passman, a Democrat from Louisiana who served in the House from 1947 to 1977. Passman was in Hong Kong to visit his tailor and lay the cornerstone of a new hospital.

"It will be the first time," Rice remarked dryly, "that he's laid something besides the pride of Wanchai." At the time I was shocked--not so much by the revelation that this sort of thing went on and was common knowledge as by the distasteful fact that professional, highly-trained foreign service officers had to act as panderers for their high-flying political overlords.

But back to the question, "Do Asian women count?" Would Larry Flynt pay $1 million to every poor prostitute in Asia who stepped forward to identify a U.S. Congressman or Senator who had strayed from his marriage with her? My interlocutors rather thought not. They're just being used, was the standard view; they're considered a commodity.

So one may assume that a quite sizable proportion of Washington politicians now pointing accusatory fingers at Clinton and Livingston are equally guilty of straying from their marriages if the definition included foreign adventures not easily documented by the U.S. press. And if asked about such transgressions they would probably cross their fingers behind their backs and deny they'd ever done such a thing. One begins to see how hair-splitting and definitional niceties may come to take on a life of their own.

The kind of fear and duplicitous lives that all politicians now face in dealing with their private sex lives is of course very familiar to one group of men and women: homosexuals. The same fear of being 'outed,' of hiding what may have been perfectly mundane, loving relationships, now haunts every man and woman in public life. Representative Gephardt and others called for an end to "the politics of smear" but did not specify how we might go about this.

I suggest that we might begin by borrowing the stance developed (although as yet not always well implemented) by the military of 'don't ask, don't tell.' "Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies," run the words of the old country-western song. That might not be a bad New Year's resolution for us all to adopt at the end of this less-than-edifying public spectacle.

SHEILA K. JOHNSON is the editor for JPRI. A version of this article appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune, December 30, 1998.


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