Sunday, June 29, 2003

From the New York Times:

June 29, 2003
Victims Say Japan Ignores Sex Crimes Committed by Teachers

AYATO, Japan — Two years ago, a 16-year-old high school girl who lived near here was hospitalized with a high fever. After doctors found that she had an acute case of genital herpes, she told her parents that her teacher had had sex with her.

When approached by the parents, the teacher denied the claim, warning them that their daughter would be expelled if they reported him.

Experts say molestation and statutory rape are commonplace in schools across Japan, and that victims rarely come forward. To do so would violate a host of powerful social conventions, said Akiko Kamei, a retired teacher who is the country's only nationally known expert in classroom sexual abuse.

"In Japan there is a rape myth, which says that the victim of a rape is always to blame," Ms. Kamei said. "Moreover, women are told that if you suffer molestation or groping, you have to be ashamed. If you talk about it to anyone else, you are going to be tainted for the rest of your life."

Beyond that, even when they are identified and caught, molesters rarely receive more than a slap on the wrist.

Speaking at a public symposium, a member of Parliament, Seiichi Ota, recently made light of reports of gang rapes at a Tokyo university. "Boys who commit group rape are in good shape," Mr. Ota said. "I think they are rather normal. Whoops, I shouldn't have said that." (The legislator's comments were carried in many Japanese newspapers.)

Recently, however, the public tolerance for rape has begun to change as a handful of victims or their families have pressed charges against classroom molesters. The mother of the girl infected with herpes, for example, went to the police, which led not only to the dismissal of the 49-year-old teacher, but to a one-year prison sentence for him as well.

In an interview about the incident, the mother requested anonymity, as do most people involved in such cases. She said that if her identity were revealed, she would be ostracized and could even lose her job.

As if to underline the family's concern, the daughter has left Japan, fleeing the taunts of fellow students and the cold shoulder of teachers at her former school.

"Whose interests would it serve for us to go public?" said the mother, who asked not only that her name not be used, but that the name of her town, which is near Hayato, in western Japan, not be revealed. "We would have liked to receive solidarity from other people, but that is not how it works in Japan. I grew up in this community, and although a foreigner might not understand, it is a fact that the victim is always cast in a negative light."

This reality was vividly demonstrated in another recent molestation case in Osaka, where a 13-year-old girl insisted, against her parents' advice, on bringing charges against a 51-year-old teacher. In February, the man was fired and given a two-year prison sentence for fondling the girl in a school office, though more than 40 teachers, friends and colleagues signed a petition requesting leniency.

The victim's best friend told her she had ruined the teacher's life, according to one newspaper, The Mainichi Shimbun. When the girl answered that it was the other way around, the classmate replied: "Well, you are young. You have a second chance."

The victim told the court that after the teacher's arrest she became an object of ridicule.

"When I was at a supermarket, I was surrounded by some senior students I had never spoken to before," she said, according to the newspaper account. "They shouted, `That's the sexually harassed one!' and laughed at me."

The girl's family and lawyer would not agree to requests for further interviews. Ms. Kamei, who published books on sexual abuse under a pseudonym while she was a teacher, came to her field more than a decade ago, when an alarmed mother approached her to say that her 8-year-old girl was masturbating. It emerged that a teacher had been fondling the girl.

Ms. Kamei said that at the time, she and the mother merely insisted that the teacher be sent to another school. "Even today, if a prosecutor fails to bring an indictment, the teacher is completely off the hook," she said. "Even after administrative dismissal, some of these teachers find work in other schools in other districts, or even as volunteers with children, although some people estimate there is an almost 100 percent chance of recidivism."

There are no generally accepted statistics on classroom sexual abuse in Japan. According to figures compiled by the Education Ministry, which parents and advocates for victims say reflect vast underreporting, there were 27 cases of molestation by teachers in 1992, a number that included cases in which teachers themselves were victims.

By 2001, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the number of reported cases had risen to 122.

In Tokyo, an Education Ministry official minimized the extent of the problem.

"Compared to other issues such as bullying, truancy and school violence, the rate of incidence is not so high," said Yoshiyasu Tanaka. "Of course I don't think the official reporting shows everything, but still, this is not something that occurs in every school, whereas problems like bullying occur almost everywhere."

That is small comfort to the mother from the school near here. When asked whether she felt satisfied with the punishment meted out in her daughter's case, she paused and shook her head.

"It is a fact that he was punished, when lots of other cases are swept under the rug, but I can't say that we got 100 percent justice, either," she said. "One year in prison is too light. The disease given to my daughter wasn't taken into account. I just wonder what the judges were thinking about."

maybe the japanese school girls should wear longer skirts to reduce the number of sex crimes? when i was in tokyo.. their skirts were extremely short and they usualli showed their undies when they sit down.. how can the men be totalli blamed for being tempted to commit crimeS?


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