Ignored, humiliated: How Japan is accused of failing survivors of sexual abuse

At first, it had seemed to Shiori Ito like a dream opportunity.As an aspiring young reporter, she says a promi...

Posted: Apr 23, 2018 12:05 PM
Updated: Apr 23, 2018 12:05 PM

At first, it had seemed to Shiori Ito like a dream opportunity.

As an aspiring young reporter, she says a prominent journalist had taken an interest in her career, and invited her out to dinner.

The invitation was made while they were both in the US, but it wasn't until they had both returned to Tokyo that the meeting took place. According to Ito, they went for sushi, and at some point in the evening she went to the bathroom. It would be the last thing she remembered from the restaurant.

"The last thing I remember is being in the bathroom. I woke up with this intense pain and he was on top of me," she recounted to CNN.

"I had no memory how I got there, why, and I (had) never lost my memory like before.

"So, yeah, he was raping me."

Her alleged attacker denied the attack. He was never arrested and the case was dropped ---Ito says prosecutors cited lack of evidence, despite what she says is security camera footage of her being dragged from a taxi to the hotel, witness statements testifying to her being unconscious, and DNA from her underwear that matched her alleged attacker.

When asked about Ito's case, the prosecutors office told CNN they cannot comment on individual cases.

#MeToo takes front seat in Japan

Ito's tale is not an isolated case in the country, which is known for its conservative ideals -- a culture where privacy is largely respected and people encouraged to toe the line.

But social mores are changing, and much as the #MeToo movement has taken hold in the US, the culture of silence in Japan is also being chipped away, albeit slowly.

Most recently, two senior political figures were forced to resign for sexual misdeeds.

One -- Junichi Fukuda, administrative vice minister for the Ministry of Finance -- was accused of sexually harassing a reporter, while the other, Ryuichi Yoneyama, governor of Niigata prefecture, announced he was stepping down in the wake of accusations he paid students for sex.

In a 2016 survey conducted by the Japan Institute for Labor, almost 34.7% of staff employees experienced sexual harassment, but of that number, more than 60% "just endured it," according to the study.

TV Asahi, the reporter's employer, apologized for mishandling her initial complaint and said that it would submit an official protest against the Finance Ministry; Fukuda maintains his innocence and says he resigned to focus on clearing his name.

Amanpour: Sexual consent is a worldwide conversation

Social backlash

Unlike the vast majority of sexual assault victims in the country, Ito went public with her accusation, telling the nation and the world about her alleged rape.

It's been a year now since she told a press conference how she found her voice "small" and how difficult it was "to deliver my voice to society."

Ultimately, she says, the systems Japan has to investigate the claim and prosecute it, failed her.

While women in the US and around the world found their voices and the courage to speak out about sexual harassment and rape, the #MeToo movement never took off in Japan.

Instead Ito received threats, a backlash on social media and was left fearing for her and her family's safety.

If you go by the numbers, Japan's incidences of rape are astonishingly low -- less than one incidence per 100,000 people, in contrast to the almost 37 per 100,000 in the US and the over 51 in 100,000 that the UK faces, according to 2014 figures from Crime and Criminal Justice, UNODC Statistics.

But the statistics likely belie the reality. Only 4% of rape victims file a report with police, according to the cabinet office of the central government, so in reality that number is likely to be much, much higher.

Russian women find their voice as #MeToo movement spreads

Stigma of shame

The reasons that rape largely goes unreported are myriad, but in the male-dominated, conservative society, sexual assault carries a heavy stigma and women often feel shame following an attack.

Human rights lawyer Kazuko Ito -- no relation to Shiori Ito -- says it is all too commonplace. She told CNN that she recently met a teenage rape victim who, immediately after the assault, reported it to the police, and also told her boyfriend.

"But (the) boyfriend blamed her, you know? Without his consent she went out with a man and drank, and after that she was raped -- 'that's why it is your fault,' yeah, and he broke up with her.

"That's the story, it happened."

Timeline: The fallout since the Weinstein scandal first rocked Hollywood

Red tape

Not only do rape victims face a culture of shame, but also huge practical and legal hurdles if they want justice, critics say.

Under Japanese law, the prosecutor must be able to prove-that the sexual assault was a result of-force-or-violence, and the law makes no mention of consent.

Shiori Ito says the system is broken. After reporting the crime, she says she had to undergo a humiliating recreation of the scene.

"I had to lay down on the floor, there were three of four male investigators with cameras, and they placed this lifelike doll on me and moved it and took photos.

"That was the most humiliating experience that I had during the investigation."

She says it's one of the biggest reasons why rape survivors take the decision to not go to the police.

She says her ordeal continued when the medical system and rape crisis center placed onerous requirements, such as subjecting her to long travel, in her injured state, for an interview.

The police also discourage victims from reporting cases, says Ito. "They [the police] told me that I wont have the life I want to have in Japan if I do, if I want to work as a journalist in Japan I have to give up my dream. They just didn't want to take (the case)."

Tokyo Metropolitan Police told CNN that it was "not able to reveal details in communication with victims."

It was this harrowing experience that led her to go public with her claim, a decision that ultimately saw her saddled with a barrage of online hate. "There were many names [I've been called], honeytrap, prostitute, hooker."

She eventually fled Japan, her friends and family, and her dreams of working in her home country as a journalist.

Opinion: It's OK to criticize the #MeToo movement

Obstacles

Even Kazuko Ito, the lawyer, says the obstacles to justice for Japanese sexual assault survivors are daunting.

"Brave women like Shiori (Ito) stand up and she exposed her face and her name [so people could] hear what happened to her, but she was not rewarded.

"She got a lot of hate speech, a lot of blame, harassment, so it is really a difficult time for her, so it is very sad but I cannot recommend women and girls to stand up, and that is why the #MeToo movement is very, very difficult."

The government says it is doing what it can to redress the injustices. The country's rape laws were changed last year for the first time in over a century, increasing the minimum sentence for rape to five years, among other upgrades -- but many people argue that it needs to increase prosecutions alongside these changes.

The government told CNN they are now creating one-stop support centers across Japan where victims of sexual violence can more easily seek help, as well as trying to raise more awareness of the issue.

But, for victims, these are just the first, small steps towards creating a society where they can feel safe and valued.

Shiori Ito says she may one day return, but for now she doesn't believe Japan is ready for a #MeToo movement.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 154411

Reported Deaths: 3836
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10332104
Hinds10190199
Harrison7244111
Jackson6521124
Rankin5805103
Lee523695
Madison4964107
Forrest388286
Jones367788
Lauderdale3575147
Lafayette334952
Washington3241108
Lamar296650
Oktibbeha251362
Lowndes243864
Bolivar242984
Panola229653
Neshoba2241118
Marshall221250
Leflore207791
Monroe203978
Pontotoc202929
Lincoln194865
Sunflower192555
Warren178757
Tate177051
Union171026
Copiah167040
Pike164758
Yazoo158840
Scott157930
Itawamba156135
Alcorn154828
Pearl River154168
Coahoma151943
Simpson151953
Prentiss149531
Adams144451
Grenada142845
Leake139444
Holmes132361
Tippah128030
Covington127939
George126425
Winston124526
Hancock123640
Wayne120623
Marion118646
Attala117534
Tishomingo110842
Chickasaw109032
Newton108029
Tallahatchie97727
Clay93427
Clarke93053
Jasper84822
Stone80015
Calhoun78113
Walthall77229
Montgomery75825
Carroll74015
Lawrence73414
Smith72816
Noxubee72517
Yalobusha72328
Perry68126
Tunica62319
Greene61222
Claiborne58916
Jefferson Davis58817
Amite55814
Humphreys54719
Benton49918
Quitman4977
Webster46414
Kemper44718
Wilkinson40422
Jefferson36411
Franklin3535
Choctaw3507
Sharkey32317
Issaquena1204
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 249524

Reported Deaths: 3578
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33064500
Mobile19951362
Madison13596148
Tuscaloosa13246154
Montgomery12435236
Shelby1061677
Baldwin889098
Lee781466
Morgan686150
Etowah643966
Calhoun6430121
Marshall635355
Houston537738
DeKalb492236
Cullman451542
Limestone433345
St. Clair432555
Lauderdale422354
Elmore412964
Walker3710111
Talladega359354
Jackson329823
Colbert329642
Blount299740
Autauga278042
Franklin256434
Coffee248315
Dale236254
Chilton227438
Dallas226832
Russell22383
Covington220434
Escambia198931
Tallapoosa184391
Chambers177950
Pike159914
Clarke159819
Marion143636
Winston135123
Lawrence131636
Pickens125718
Geneva12438
Marengo123124
Bibb119617
Barbour117811
Butler117842
Randolph104921
Cherokee103424
Hale97831
Fayette92516
Washington92219
Clay92024
Henry8756
Lowndes80229
Monroe79011
Cleburne77814
Macon74522
Crenshaw72030
Bullock70219
Perry6906
Lamar6898
Conecuh68814
Wilcox64218
Sumter58622
Greene42818
Choctaw42713
Coosa3544
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 42°
Columbus
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 42°
Oxford
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 41°
Starkville
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 46°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather