Rape in Japan is a crime but justice is rarely served. A Non-Arrest & Shiori Ito’s Full Statement

(originally posted in October 2017. periodically updated)

Japan’s ruling coalition, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been mired in scandal for several weeks amid allegations Abe personally bent the law or broke it to benefit his political cronies and friends. Even a senior member of Abe’s own Liberal Democratic Party says, “There is nothing this administration wouldn’t do to crush its enemies and reward its pals.”

But new allegations have raised the possibility that the administration may have gone so far as to quash a rape investigation on behalf of a close friend of Abe: the dapper, hipster-bearded broadcast journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi, who also penned two laudatory books on the prime minister

The story became national news on May 29 when a 28-year-old journalist named Shiori Ito held a press conference at the Tokyo District Court as she sought to reopen the closed investigation into her case….(Click here for part one: Is Japan’s Top Politician Behind a Shameful Rape Cover-Up  and for the follow up Japan’s Big #MeToo Moment) . She did not win a reopening of the case but filed a civil suit at the end of September. Last March, the civil courts did essentially find a man guilty of rape and fine him for damages—after police failed to file charges in time for a criminal case to be possible. Shiori Ito also came forward with her full name and published a book, Black Box, referring to the fear of sexual assault victims to come forward in Japan, (only 1 in 5 do, and half of cases resulting in arrest are dropped by prosecutors) and the government and police discouragement of sexual assault investigations and their refusal to discuss why they drop cases, even to the victims. Shiori Ito has gained a groundswelling of public support in recent months. 

There is dispute to what happened and Noriyuki Yamaguchi has categorically denied raping Shiori Ito, “I have done nothing to touch the law.” And this month, he has even published a long rebuttal implying that Shiori Ito is a tool of shadowy anti-Abe political forces in ultra-right magazine, Monthly Hanada  (月刊花田). The editor of Hanada is famous for having okayed publication of an article denying that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz, implying that there was no holocaust. However, there is on undisputed fact: an arrest warrant on charges of rape (準強姦) was issued for Yamaguchi, only to be revoked by a political and personal friend of the Abe administration, Itaru Nakamura. See below. 

The Non-Arrest of Shiori Ito’s Alleged Rapist (an annotation in The Daily Beast)

The arrest warrant for Noriyuki Yamaguchi was reportedly pulled by Itaru Nakamura, the acting chief of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Investigative Division at the time, on June 8 2015.

The chief detective waiting to arrest Yamaguchi, the alleged rapist, informed Ito over the phone, “We have to let him go. The arrest has been stopped from above. I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t do enough.”

Itaru Nakamura is a more important figure than his title as an acting police chief might suggest. He is also a former political secretary to Cabinet Minister Yoshihide Suga and a friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He immediately moved the investigation from the original police department, Takanawa PD, to the police headquarters so that it was under his control.

The prosecutor who had signed off on the arrest warrant was taken off the case. The new detectives handling it drove Shiori Ito to a lawyer to convince her to make a settlement with the accused and drop charges, a highly unusual move.

The Daily Beast has tried to reach Nakamura for comment several times with no luck.

Nakamura is currently the chief of The National Police Agency Organized Crime Control Division, which gives guidance on the controversial and Orwellian criminal conspiracy laws that the Abe administration ramrodded through the parliament.

“I’ve sent him letters,” says Ito. “I’ve tried to meet him now six times––the first time I’ve ever done a stakeout. He won’t talk to me. I just want him to look me in the eye and tell me why he stopped the arrest and scuttled the investigation.” She even once chased him as he ran to his chauffeured car–only to be nearly ran over as he sped away.

Only in Japan do rape victims have to chase the police to seek justice. In a better world, the cops would be actively chasing the suspected rapist.

It is possible that Prime Minister Abe, his second in command, and Nakamura may be pursued in the Japanese Parliament by opposition party members seeking the truth. But don’t hold your breath. Many are reluctant to open the black box. If #metoo (#私も) ever starts trending here, it would do a lot to pry the lid open. Shiori Ito has at least made a dent in it…..and her press conference is something that says a lot about how things still work in Japan. 

For reference purposes, here is the text of her speech, translated from Japanese, with some editing for clarity.

 

Thank you for coming today.

Shiori Ito has come forward to talk about her rape and the lack of investigation of sexual assault in Japan.

 

First of all, I would like to address why I decided to hold this press conference.

Two years ago, I was raped. Going through the subsequent procedures, I came to the painful realization that the legal and social systems in Japan work against victims of sex crimes. I felt strongly about needing to change this adverse structure, and decided to go public with my case.

I will go into details later, but in the beginning, the police would not even let me file a report on this case. They told me that it was difficult to investigate sex crimes under the current law. Also, the person in question, Mr. Yamaguchi, was the Washington Bureau Chief of Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) at the time, and a public figure. During the investigation, I received insults that were unbearable as a victim.

However, my intention is not to criticize the entire police force. The Takanawa Police eventually became sympathetic to my situation and worked hard to investigate this case. Thanks to their efforts, investigations were completed and an arrest warrant was issued. But just as the warrant was about to be executed, the then-Chief Detective ordered investigators to call off the arrest. I question the existence of a police organization that allows such unforgiveable circumstances to transpire.

I also question the procedures that sex crime victims are required to undergo at hospitals in order to receive treatment and examinations, as well as the insensitivity of organizations that provide information for victims. A fundamental change needs to be made to this structure.

On the legislative level, the Diet is currently prioritizing discussions about conspiracy laws over the proposed bill to revise rape crimes, whose content is also something that we need to reconsider to ensure that they are truly satisfactory.

I hope that by talking about my experience publicly, I will help improve the current structure and start discussions that will lead to changes. This was my motivation behind making this announcement.

This afternoon, I made an appeal to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution about my case being dropped.

I will omit details of the incident itself, as it would be difficult to read them aloud. Please refer to the handouts for details. What I can say is that a sexual act was committed against me, unrelated to my will, against my will. I will talk about the events that ensued after the incident.

Circumstances of the Incident

 

I met Mr. Yamaguchi, then TBS’s Washington Bureau Chief, in the fall of 2013, when I was studying journalism and photography at a university in New York. I met him a second time in the US, but we did not engage in any deep discussions on either occasion.

 

After I graduated, I aspired to work as a freelance journalist because I wanted to lend an ear to unheard voices, and to listen to their stories over long period of time. But upon returning to Japan at the beginning of 2015, my parents convinced me to first work at a company for a few years. In March of the same year, I emailed Mr. Yamaguchi to ask if there were any openings at the TBS Washington Bureau, because he had previously told me that he could arrange for me to work there. And when I was interning at Nippon Television’s New York Bureau, there were people who had been hired locally. So I didn’t question Mr. Yamaguchi’s offer.

 

Mr. Yamaguchi’s replies were positive about my employment: “You could start working here while we look at getting you hired you officially;” “The biggest barrier will be the visa, but TBS could help you get one.”

 

After several email exchanges, he said that he would be coming back to Japan for business and asked me to meet him. We agreed to meet on Friday, April 3, 2015.

 

At the time, I was working as an intern at Reuters. I had to work late, and ended up being late for my meeting with Mr. Yamaguchi. When I called, he reassured me and told me that he would go ahead and start eating without me. This conversation led me to believe that someone else was joining us, as I had never met him alone before.

 

That night, he was already eating at one of his favorite restaurants, a kushiyaki place in Ebisu. I had 5 brochettes, two glasses of beer, and a glass of wine. At the restaurant, he made small talk and didn’t discuss the visa, which was supposed to be the objective of our meeting. He said, “There are other restaurants I need to pop by in Ebisu. I’ve made a reservation for the next restaurant, where I want to have a proper meal. Let’s have a quick bite here, and go to the next place together.” The next place was another one of his favorite restaurants, this time a sushi place.

 

At the sushi restaurant, he said, “I’ve heard good things about you and want to work with you.” An hour or so after we had arrived at the second restaurant, I suddenly felt dizzy and went to the bathroom, it was my second time to go to the bath room at this place. The last thing I remember is leaning my head against the water tank. I don’t remember anything else after that. As far as I can remember, I shared two servings of sake with him at the sushi restaurant. Prior to this incident, I had never lost my memory from drinking alcohol.

 

Investigators later told me that I left the sushi restaurant with Mr. Yamaguchi around 11PM. He apparently took me to a hotel in Minato Ward. According to the taxi driver who drove us to the hotel, I repeatedly asked to be dropped off at the nearest station. But Mr. Yamaguchi said, “Don’t worry, I won’t do anything. We’ll just talk about work,” and instructed the driver to head to the hotel. According to the driver’s testimony, I wasn’t able to get out of the taxi on my own, so Mr. Yamaguchi had to carry me. This scene was recorded on the hotel’s security camera. I plan to submit these testimonies and evidence to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution.

 

At 5AM the next morning, I regained consciousness. I was lying naked in a hotel bed, face up with Mr. Yamaguchi on top of me. I will refrain from providing explicit details, but what I can say is that a sexual act was committed against me, unrelated to my will, against my will.

 

After the Incident

 

Several hours after the incident, I went to see a gynecologist in my neighborhood. Mr. Yamaguchi had not used any contraception, and I did not know what do. As soon as I entered the consultation room, the gynecologist asked, “What time did you make the mistake?” without even looking at me. I was then given a pill and told to take it outside. That was it. I could not bring myself to explain my situation to someone so mechanical. So I decided to call a nonprofit that supported victims of sexual violence, hopeful for an introduction to another medical facility.

 

However, the person who took the call said, “I would like to interview you first.” I was devastated. I barely had the strength to get up from my bed, and had called in desperation. But the first word I heard from this organization was “interview.” I’m certain that other victims with similar experiences would be deprived of any will power at this point. What is critical at this stage is not an interview, but an introduction to a medical institution for an examination.

 

At first, the police would not let me file a report. Investigators repeatedly tried to convince me not to file and said things like, “This kind of thing happens often, but it’s difficult to investigate these cases;” “This will affect your career;” “You won’t be able to work in this industry after this;” and “All the effort you’ve made so far in your life will go to waste.”

 

I pleaded investigators to check the footage from the hotel’s security camera, and that by doing so, they would see that I was telling the truth. When they finally did check the footage, they agreed to handle this incident as a case and start investigating.

 

On June 8, 2015, several investigators were waiting for Mr. Yamaguchi at Narita Airport. Equipped with an arrest warrant, they were going to arrest him upon his arrival in Japan on charges of incapacitated rape. However, this arrest warrant was never executed.

 

At the time, I was in Germany for work. Immediately prior to the scheduled arrest, one of the investigators had contacted me to say, “We’re going to arrest him. Please return to Japan immediately.” So I was preparing to come back when I received another call from the investigator. Even now, I have vivid recollections of this call: “He just passed right in front of me, but I received orders from above to not make the arrest,” “I’m going to have to leave the investigation.”

 

Why did this happen? Surprisingly, the then-Chief Detective had ordered the arrest to be called off. In an interview with Shukan Shincho, this Chief Detective admitted that he had “given orders to cancel the arrest.”

 

Japanese laws do not protect us. The investigation agency has the authority to suppress its own arrest warrants. I will never forget the sense of helplessness I felt that day.

 

After the incident at the airport, the police sent criminal papers to Mr. Yamaguchi on charges of incapacitated rape. But on August 2, 2016, the prosecution decided to drop charges against Mr. Yamaguchi due to insufficient suspicion. This process took over 1 year and 4 months. The investigations revealed evidence of me being dragged into the hotel through testimonies from the taxi driver and the hotel bellman, as well as footage from the security camera. DNA test results also provided additional evidence. I could not accept the case being dropped, and conducted my own inquiries. And today, I finally made an appeal to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution.

 

I want to ask a question to all people living in Japan. Are we really going to continue to let this happen?

 

For the past two years, I often wondered why I was still alive. The act of rape killed me from the inside. Rape is murder of the soul. Only my body was left, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I had become a shell.

 

After the incident, I concentrated on seeking the truth as a journalist. I had no other choice. I felt like I would be mentally crushed if I considered myself a victim. Focusing on work was a way for me to protect myself.

 

I then came across a photo documentary of rape victims and their families by Mary F. Calvert in a World Press Photo exhibit. In the exhibit, there was a diary of a woman who had been raped. In this diary, there was a drawing of wrist cutting, accompanied by a message that said, “If only it was this easy.” In the end, this woman killed herself.

 

I understand this woman’s pain. She doesn’t exist in this world anymore, but I witnessed those photos and received her message. And this is what I thought: “I have to reveal the horror of rape and the enormous impact it has on the victim’s life.”

 

Becoming a rape victim myself made me realized just how small our voices are, and how difficult it is to have our voices heard in society. At the same time, I recognized the need to face this issue as a journalist. If I hadn’t been a journalist, I may have given up. I know there are countless women who have gone through the same experience, leaving them hurt and crushed. I know that, both in the past and still today, many of these women have given up.

 

How many media outlets have published this story? When I saw Mr. Yamaguchi repeatedly broadcasting his side of the story through his powerful connections, I couldn’t breathe. Where is the freedom of speech in this country? What are the laws and media trying to protect, and from whom? That is the question I want to ask.

 

I have travelled to over 60 countries, and have been asked if I have ever been in a dangerous situation. My travels have included interviewing the guerrilla in Columbia, going to the cocaine jungle in Peru, and other areas that would be considered dangerous. But I am sad to say that the only time I actually encountered real danger was in Japan, my homeland, which is considered a safe country. I wholeheartedly wish that no one else has to experience what I went through.

 

This could happen to you, your family, your friends – it could happen to anyone. If we remain silent and ignore this opportunity to change the legal and investigation systems, each and every one of us will be approving these crimes to continue.

 

That is all from me. Once again, thank you for your time.

 

 

 

Chronological order of events:

 

April 3, 2015                          Met Mr. Yamaguchi

20:00               Entered kushiyaki restaurant

21:40               Entered sushi restaurant

 

April 4, 2015   5:00                 Woke up in pain and realized that I had been raped. Memory

lost half way in sushi restaurant

April 9, 2015                          Consulted Harajuku Police Station

April 11, 2015                        Interview with lieutenant from Takanawa Police Station

(currently at Metropolitan Police Headquarters) at Harajuku Police Station

April 15, 2015                        Watched security camera footage with aforementioned

lieutenant at Sheraton Miyako Hotel

April 30, 2015                        Filed criminal complaint at Takanawa Police Station

Beginning of June 2015           Collected evidence such as: testimony from taxi driver,

testimony from hotel bellman, investigation results from DNA sample collected from underwear. Arrest warrant issued. (Due to the possibility of the rape being filmed, confiscation of Mr.

Yamaguchi’s computer was also a requirement)

June 4, 2015                           Informed about the scheduled arrest of the accused upon his

return to Japan at Narita Airport; requested to return from Germany

June 8, 2015

Informed by lieutenant that he had gone to the airport, but that the arrest had been cancelled due to orders from above. Also informed that the lieutenant had been relieved from this case. Subsequently, the case was transferred from the Takanawa Police Station to the First Section of the Metropolitan Police Department

August 26, 2015                     Criminal papers sent to Mr. Yamaguchi

October 2015                         My first interview with prosecutor

January 2016                         Mr. Yamaguchi’s interview with prosecutor

June 2016                               My second interview with prosecutor

July 22, 2016                          Charges dropped against Mr. Yamaguchi

 

Editor’s note: Mr. Yamaguchi has categorically denied all charges and his rebuttal can be read on his Facebook page and in the article linked above. This was originally published on June 18th, 2017 and was slightly updated on October 24th. 

Have you been a victim of sexual assault in Japan? How did police respond?

Who Matters? Sexual Assault and Inadequate Police Response in Japan

Recently Japan Subculture Research Center’s acting editor-in-chief, Jake Adelstein,  and managing editor, Mari Yamamoto, published an article, “Do Men In Japan Ever Get Convicted For Rape?” in the Daily Beast on the need for change in the sexual assault laws and the handling of the cases in Japan.

An excerpt of the actual attempted assault of a visiting scholar was a large part of the article and since it has triggered a tremendous response,  below is the full account. The overall response to the article has been immense and there will be a follow up but it is worth reiterating, the official numbers of sexual assault cases are most likely grossly underestimated. Sexual assault in Japan is seldom discussed even in the confidence of friends.

Long time prosecutor Kazuko Tanaka depicts the bleak landscape of sexual assault investigation in her book “Sexual Crimes and Child Abuse Investigation Handbook” published in 2014.

“While 100% of those who are victims of theft would (be assumed to) file a police report, according to a 2008 Ministry of Justice’s research of the estimated actual numbers of crimes, the rates of reports made were 13.3%. However, in the 2011 Cabinet Gender Equality Bureau’s “Research on Violence Between the Sexes” (男女間における暴力に関する調査) they found that only 3.7% of people who confided in others went to the police and 67.9% of the victims did not tell anybody at all. Therefore it can be estimated that only 4% of the cases are being reported and if the report rate was 100%, the case numbers (of sexual assault in Japan) would increase by 25 times.”

For those who can read Japanese, the book documents in great detail, many of the problems with sexual assault in Japan, both the low rate of reporting and the poor handling by law enforcement.  We have received many personal letters and emails from other victims. A harrowing account of a foreign woman who was raped in Japan in 2014, was also published in the Japan Times. The majority of victims in Japan, are of course, Japanese women. And sometimes men.

Here is the account of one woman in Japan, who barely escaped sexual assault, and who experienced the police at their laziest.

“I lived in a sleepy neighborhood close to a prestigious University, a place where most residents were over sixty and my biggest fear was how I could ever make enough cakes to repay them for the treats they regularly brought me. I often told friends and colleagues how relieved I was to be spending my two years of dissertation research in an area free of the hustle and bustle of Shibuya or Shinjuku’s youth and seedy corners. Like many people, I considered Japan the safest country I had ever visited. Here, I rarely feared walking alone after dark or glanced around with the same caution I would even in the safest towns in the U.S.

But last year, as I returned home late from a weeknight birthday celebration, a man quietly followed me down a side street two blocks from my apartment. Past the cozy stoop where I normally pause to pet the neighborhood Labrador and snap photos of the local store cat, to the residential interior not visible from the main road. Unknown to me, he trailed only a few feet behind. As I passed in front of the local childcare center, I glimpsed him over my shoulder just as he rushed to quickly seize me from behind and force me to the ground. Though he groped at me from above as I thrashed in resistance and screamed a litany of English profanities at him, my attacker soon gave up and just as quickly fled the way we had come. Sprawled in the street under the lighted windows of dozens of nearby apartments and bleeding from the elbow I’d hit the concrete on, I stared at the scattered contents of my purse and the lost shoe that lay a few feet away. No one looked outside. No one opened their doors. I was alone.

As I gathered my things and walked the block to my apartment, all I could think about was what I had heard from others—that Japanese police don’t take assaults on or the molestation of women seriously. The article I had read two years ago in the Japan Times on the shamefully poor handling of one woman’s rape case was running through my mind. Shaken and trying not to touch my bloody arm, I called my best friend in America, agonizing over the thought of waking my elderly neighbors up, or having to go back to the police station alone (in the direction my attacker had run), only to face the coming ordeal in Japanese, when it was hard enough to endure in English.

I finally settled on walking back to the police box several blocks away, and there, my every expectation of being taken lightly and having the truth of my experience denied was met with an insidious subtly that was not subtle at all.

Don’t get me wrong, people cared that I was hurt. The elderly officer at the police box was immediately alert and upset. He sat me down and called someone with more haste than anyone else I saw that night. This kind of crime, I was told, had never occurred in my area. He was alarmed. Even more alarmed, or perhaps especially so, after I mentioned I was a researcher at said renowned University. Suddenly, I really mattered.

After an awkward call to a policewoman that I struggled through, not knowing the vocabulary for my attack (when had I ever had the need to learn the word for ‘physical assault’ or ‘rape’?), the tiny police box was soon filled over capacity with other officers. Only the elderly gentleman had the presence of mind to tell them to move me to the back, away from the door and windows, to question me.

I was interrogated about the attack over and over again by multiple officers, asked where, when, what he looked like, to mimic the motions of the way the man grabbed me, again, again. They snapped photos of my bloody elbows, trying to find a good way to do so crammed in the tiny back room. I wondered if this was how questioning normally occurred, stuffed into this claustrophobic space, loomed over by five officers in a room, only two of whom really fit in the room with me. But more than the inappropriateness of the space, I began to notice the tenor of the questions.

“What did he look like? He was a foreigner, wasn’t he? Was he white? An American?”

No, I said, he was Japanese.

“A Korean? Probably a Korean or a Chinese person?”

No, I said, he was Japanese.

“She said he looked like a regular salaryman [white collar worker],” the one female officer in the room interjected, “She said he was Japanese.”

“Are you sure he was wearing a white dress shirt? Wasn’t it more like a t-shirt?”

No, I said, repeating myself for the third time. It was a short-sleeved collared shirt.

“And pants like these?” A male officer suggested, tugging on his black cargoes.

No, I said, repeating myself again. They were slacks.

“Like a salaryman,” the female officer echoed. “That’s what she said.”

Interspersed with the suggestions that my attacker could not have possibly looked like a Japanese business man, the officers inserted every few minutes, “You don’t want to submit a police report, right?”

The first few times I hadn’t caught onto the word, and from context I couldn’t tell if I should say yes or no. I heard the word “higai,” damage or injury, in there, but didn’t realize “higaitodoke” was a police report, and stumbled through the questions adrenaline-addled; avoiding giving an answer to something I didn’t understand.

Not twenty minutes after this inquisition, they drove me back to the scene of the crime and for half an hour had me show them the exact spot where it happened. The how, the when, the where. This time, they wanted me to re-enact the situation with a female officer, so they could take photos of what the event must have looked like. What if I had been raped? I wondered. Or of a more delicate state of mind after this attack, like others might be? How traumatizing could it have been for four officers to take me back to the scene not half an hour later and make me walk them through it while a stranger put their hands on me in the exact same way I had been assaulted? It made me sick to my stomach to later learn this is standard procedure, and even women who have been raped are made to reenact or watch reenactments of their attack for the sake of police records.

I was asked several more times about submitting a police report, in the same manner as before. “You could submit a police report, but…”, “Are you sure you want to?”, “You know you don’t have to…”, “It’s already so late at night, aren’t you too tired?” The female office was the only one who stepped in, saying “But what if it happens again to another girl?”

I understood the meaning fully this time.

The realization that the way every male officer had been asking me about the police report, as if to file a formal complaint about my assault was a giant inconvenience, a futile and wholly unnecessary effort, made me livid. I thought about how many other women in Japan must have been encouraged not to submit police reports. To bury their stories and their (perceived) shame for the sake of convenience. It was 2 AM. I assured them a police report was exactly what I wanted.

I was driven to the police station, where two male officers took me into a small room and set up a laptop and portable printer. All of the previous information was gone through several more times, with mind-numbing repetition, and equally mind-numbing insensitivity. The same series of questions about whether I was sure he was Japanese.

“How do you know?” One officer asked.

“I’ve been studying Japanese for ten years, and I’ve lived in Japan for four years, I know what a Japanese person looks like.” I had made the mistake of mentioning a Korean restaurant nearby as a landmark in describing the small street I went down. They jumped on it.

“So it was surely a Korean man,” the officer said with confidence.

The restaurant is, in fact, owned by a very kind Japanese lady.

“He was Japanese,” I protested.

You can tell the difference between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese people?” the officer scoffed.

“I can usually tell the difference.”

“What? Can you really? Even I can’t do that,” he countered.

Of course, I thought to myself. My truth did not fit the standard, discriminatory narrative in Japan: That Japanese people don’t frequently commit crimes, foreigners do. Sure, there is room for doubt—it was dark, I was struggling, he was a stranger. The reaction of pure disbelief at my story, several times over, layered with a healthy dose of anti-foreign sentiment was startling but not shocking. As a victim, I was unsettled; as someone familiar with the deeply ingrained racism prevalent in many areas of Japanese society at large, I recognized with disappointment what I heard.

But worse yet was the more common disbelief that is shared widely around the world: that assault on women is not a real crime, especially not if it doesn’t go too far, and that men must have their reasons. In the middle of the report, I was asked to do another reenactment, this time in a tiny tatami room on another floor of the police station. The female officer joined us again, and once more I had to relive my attack under the watchful eyes of two more male officers, one with a camera, one an observer, while the woman apologetically asked where she should put her arms on me and we repeatedly paused in awkward mid-motion so they could take photos of our positions.

Amidst the perverse recreation, the older male officer paused us, and added, “But grabbing you like that, he didn’t actually grab your boobs, did he? Or did he try to? Did he actually put his hands on them or not? He only grabbed your arms?” I gawked at the questions. Not only because I had never heard a professional use the casual term for breasts, oppai, and never expected to in such a serious situation, but because the officer seemed to want to downplay the seriousness of the attack.

“He didn’t have the chance,” I fumbled to explain. While it could have been an innocent line of inquiry, it didn’t feel that way at all from the way he asked—it was very clear that there was a line to be drawn here between assault and sexual assault. A gravity no one wanted to lay claim to in this situation. “Did you think he wanted to rape you? No, right?” Someone had asked at some point. Why else, I wondered to myself, would they think a man stalked a woman several minutes down a dark empty street in the middle of the night and attack her? Sure, it was an assault, but maybe it wasn’t sexual, they implied.

Then there was the question of alcohol. Several times over it came up. Was he drunk? Did he smell like alcohol? Did he walk funny? Maybe he was just drunk, and it was a mistake. I doubt a drunk man would have the presence of mind to stalk after me so quietly, for so long, to rush at me just as I took notice of him. To run that fast once I had fought him off too vigorously and too loudly to be worth the trouble any more. But if a man is drunk, sexual assault is perfectly normal, isn’t it? Their brief actions have little impact? Isn’t that what society tells us? Clearly Americans are not the only ones.

Even as the officers were finishing up my police report, one of them looked to me and said, “You know, you’re going back home at the end of August. If you file this report and it goes to trial, will you really come back here?” I answered sharply, “If necessary,” so fast that he looked taken aback. How many women, I wondered, did police regularly convince to deny the truth of their attack? To drop making a report, because it was unlikely to lead to conviction? Because it might hurt their crime statistics? Because assault on women didn’t actually matter?

I do not write this with the intention setting flame to the reputation of my local police or to vilify these officers that rallied quickly when I told them I was hurt. I write this because it is apparent to me— now through vivid personal experience— that in Japan, just as in many nations, sexual assault on women (to speak nothing of others who suffer as well) is taken lightly in a manner that points to a disturbing lack of proper training, sensitivity, and respect for women and victims.

Inherent cultural biases against the belief that Japanese can commit crimes, that crimes against women are important enough to report, that such crimes have to be grave to matter—all of these issues meant that my story was questioned at every step, and that subtle or not, I was constantly dissuaded from “enduring” proper procedure for reporting a serious crime.

The Japanese National Policy Agency’s informational materials on police support for sex crime victims state that “It is also unavoidable that officers, in their contacts with victims, often cause them to suffer secondary victimization,” and then lists the measures and policies the police take to support victims who suffer this type of assault, such as counseling, special investigators, or appointing female officers to offer assistance. But the fact of the matter is that secondary victimization is largely avoidable, if officers are trained to handle responding to victims appropriately.

Throughout my experience there was no awareness that taking a victim back to the scene of the crime only minutes after it occurred, making them re-enact the event several times, and using insensitive language or lines of questioning could be at all traumatizing. Every person involved was absolutely oblivious, and I was not asked once if anything made me uncomfortable. I was never formally told what the police procedures were at any point of the process (other than the option to not submit a report at all). With the exception of the contact information memo I received at the very end of my four hours at the station, only one person– the elderly man with whom I first spoke at the police box— ever showed me a badge or gave me their names. The extent to which officers failed to fundamentally understand what it meant to properly handle this type of assault with consideration of and respect for the victim was appalling.

Throughout the entire ordeal I wondered to myself, how much worse or more unprofessionally would I have been treated if I had not been a researcher at a prestigious university? If I didn’t know Japanese? Would I have been afforded any more respect if I had been seriously injured? Raped? Would they have considered me important at all if I had just been some twenty-something young tourist? If I had been a Japanese woman, even? That I even had to ask myself such questions about who matters points to the gross negligence in training Japanese police officers to handle these sensitive subjects. To see beyond their personal biases and the deeply embedded flaws in the legal system to do good police work and bring justice to those who sorely need it.

With the Olympics around the corner and a huge influx of foreigners expected to populate the greater Tokyo area in the next four years, perpetrators will find ample opportunity to harass, assault, or sexually prey upon foreign victims, especially. And without a doubt, they will be more likely to do so because they know the system all but guarantees that the chance they will be caught or punished is abysmally small.

I returned to the U.S. shortly thereafter, and the police, refusing to accept any form of contact information from me except a Japanese phone number, defunct after my departure, will never be able to contact me again.

They will never catch the man. But that police report mattered. Women matter. Their safety matters. Procedure matters. Their stories matter. Their dignity matters. Though you would not have known it to be sitting in that police station.”

We make it our mission to keep writing about sexual violence in Japan. If you have a story you would like to share, please email us at japansubcultureresearchcenter@gmail.com

 

 

Has a Russian sexual predator been on the loose in Hokkaido?

“Oddly, her anger, tears, helplessness, and fears turned me on. I would let her recover and relax for a day only to suddenly demand anal sex. I know how the system works and how difficult it is to build a rape case. So far, no one has been able to put me away.”

 

A not-so-bright Russian postdoctoral researcher in Japan may have outed himself as a sexual predator. A series of postings uncovered by our Japan Subculture Research Center reporter, Rila Kunina*, raises concerns that one Russian man in Hokkaido has been engaging in criminal behavior. We hope that by posting the details here, we are encouraging possible victims to come forward.

Prostitutka-Ket is a popular Russian blog run by a former sex worker who writes under pen name Callgirl Kat or Yekaterina Bezimyannaya (from nameless in Russian). Known for its frank discussions of sexuality, the website draws up to 150,000 visitors daily. On October 9th, one of them – a longtime resident of Sapporo who hails from the Russian city of Vladivostok – may have outed himself as a sexual predator.

Yekaterina Bezimyannaya’s October 9th post was the latest in a series dealing with date rape. Ms. Bezimyannaya, while refusing to identify as a feminist, subscribes to a staunchly feminist notion of consent – namely, that women (or men) never owe sex to anyone, and that consent can be withdrawn at any point before or during intercourse. A user who goes by the handle of “Lennikov” took to the comment section to gloat about repeatedly getting away with what would easily be classsifed as date rape, and in Japan as not only rape (強姦罪) but probably also監禁罪* (Unlawful Capture and Confinement). *A   person   who    unlawfully  captures   or    confines  another  shall  be  punished by  imprisonment  with hard labor for not less than  3 months but not more than  7 years.

The following is a translation of a series of comments Lennikov made before Yakaterina Bezimyannaya banned him from the blog. Be advised that the comments are extremely graphic and may prove trigger flashbacks in survivors of sexual violence.

Lennikov: Oddly, her anger, tears, helplessness, and fears turned me on. It was amusing to comfort her, to say that we would simply spend time together and that I was ashamed of my behavior. I would let her recover and relax for a day only to suddenly demand anal sex.”
Lennikov: Oddly, her anger, tears, helplessness, and fears turned me on. It was amusing to comfort her, to say that we would simply spend time together and that I was ashamed of my behavior. I would let her recover and relax for a day only to suddenly demand anal sex.”

“I’ve talked about this on my blog. I am fine with women who like being picked up in expensive cars and taken to nice hotels to make love. [] What I can’t tolerate are women who, after being treated to a nice dinner and accepting an expensive gift, tell me that they really like me as a friend, that they don’t feel like having sex, and that they will call me later. [] When I kick them out of the car in a deserted area outside of the city limits in the middle of the night, they act surprised. If we are in a foreign country, I threaten to cancel the woman’s return ticket. At that point, many women become docile and agree to make the dinner worth my while. They go back to my expensive car, [] dutifully suck me off [] and spread their legs. It is not until later that they accuse me of rape. The stupidest ones go to the police and try to report me.

I know how the system works and how difficult it is to build a rape case. So far, no one has been able to put me away.”

>How could you have sex with an obviously unwilling partner? Actually, I liked it. She was so prim and proper, with a rich inner world and a sense of self-respect. But once I gave her a little nudge, she turned out to be a common slut. Sometimes she even forgot that she supposedly wasn't enjoying herself :)  It's not like she couldn't come up with money [for the return ticket]. She had a credit card, a mobile phone. She could have borrowed money from her parents or friends, I wasn't holding her by force, but she chose to pay me with her own body. All her histrionics and tears were a result of conflict between her self-image and reality. I told her as much when she was leaving.  (From R.K. - A credit card issued in Russia most likely could not be used to get money in Japan. Elsewhere, Anton L. states that the woman offered to pay him back after returning home, but he refused to believe her.)
>How could you have sex with an obviously unwilling partner?
Actually, I liked it. She was so prim and proper, with a rich inner world and a sense of self-respect. But once I gave her a little nudge, she turned out to be a common slut. Sometimes she even forgot that she supposedly wasn’t enjoying herself 🙂
It’s not like she couldn’t come up with money [for the return ticket]. She had a credit card, a mobile phone. She could have borrowed money from her parents or friends, I wasn’t holding her by force, but she chose to pay me with her own body. All her histrionics and tears were a result of conflict between her self-image and reality. I told her as much when she was leaving.
(From R.K. – A credit card issued in Russia most likely could not be used to get money in Japan. Elsewhere, Anton L. states that the woman offered to pay him back after returning home, but he refused to believe her.)

Lest there be any confusion, this is rape. A woman who finds herself stranded in a deserted, remote area late at night can reasonably fear for her life. Especially in the winter, when temperatures in Sapporo and Vladivostok alike dip well below zero. Especially if she is alone with a much larger man (according to his blog, Anto L. weighs 110 kg and stands 190 cm tall) who just demonstrated utter contempt for her humanity by driving her into the woods and demanding sex. Under these circumstances, any interaction a woman has with her assailant is nothing but a desperate plea for her life.

“Lennikov” is so sure of his impunity that he makes no attempt to conceal his identity, even using a close-up photo of his face as his profile picture. A cursory Internet search reveals that he is none other than Anto L, a chief researcher at a Medical University in Sapporo who has resided in Japan for the last 6 years. At least some of his alleged crimes have been committed on Japanese territory and against Japanese citizens; in one of his comments he characterizes Japanese women as “grateful” and more willing to “work” for the money he spent wooing them.

In perhaps the most chilling of his comments, Lennikov describes systematically raping a woman after inviting her to spend a vacation in Japan. Lennikov writes:

“Back in Russia, when I was 20, I dated a 16-year-old, let’s call her Masha… I reconnected with Masha through social networks. She is destitute and lives with her cancer-stricken, controlling mother.”

Masha accepted Lennikov’s invitation to visit Japan, all expenses paid. On her first night in the country, she agreed to sleep in the same bed with her host, but when he attempted to initiate intercourse, decisively rejected him, saying that she was not attracted to him physically. Several days later, Lennikov again began pressuring the woman to have sex with him, presumably threatening to cancel her return ticket. This time, she acquiesced.

“When everything was over, Masha became hysterical, accusing me of rape and threatening to call the police []. When she reached for the phone, I put her into a chokehold and said that here [in Japan], I could dispose of her in anyway I pleased and with absolute impunity []. I told her that for the rest of her stay, she would have sex with me when and however I wanted. []

The next morning Masha went to the bathroom and texted her friend that she had been kidnapped, raped, and would probably be killed. []

Oddly, her anger, tears, helplessness, and fears turned me on. It was amusing to comfort her, to say that we would simply spend time together and that I was ashamed of my behavior. I would let her recover and relax for a day only to suddenly demand anal sex.”

The woman’s ordeal lasted until, several days later, she received a return ticket from her relatives in Russia. Lennikov agreed to drive Masha to the airport, but not before forcing her to pose for sexually explicit pictures that he then threatened to e-mail to her coworkers.

According to the Lennikov, upon Masha’s return to Russia, he offered her money. Instead, she reported him to local law enforcement. However, no charges were filed. To put this fact in perspective, only 3% of reported rape cases in Russia reach court; all-too-often, survivors of sex crime have to deal with flagrant incompetence and even further abuse at the hands of the law enforcement.

After his comments drew widespread outrage (along with a hefty dose of garden-variety victim-blaming), Anto L hastily scrubbed his blog. He now claims that the stories he recounted on Bezimyannaya’s blog were fabricated. Simply put, Ant L claims to be a troll. And maybe he is. But here is the thing: over two months ago, someone – most likely Anto L himself – recounted identical events in a psychology self-help forum. That post now has been deleted. In the title, the poster asks, “am I a rapist?”

Japan Subculture Research Center is trying to reach Mr. L but has not heard back from him at this time. We are passing on a translation of his writings to the Sapporo Police and have reached out to the Russian police as well. Perhaps, Anto L is just a troll as he claims after redacting previous statements, but if he a sex offender, he should be brought to justice. At the very least, he should be ashamed of himself. You would think if he learned anything in his 6 years in Japan, it would be that at least.

Anto L—恥を知れ!

 

If you are in Hokkaido and have any information on this individual, please send it to JSRC. We will translate it and pass it on to the authorities in both countries. 

Rila Kunina is a pseudonym for JSRC’s Russia/Japan beat reporter.  She is fearless and breaks fingers like pretzels. So we’ve heard.