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Rape Victim Presses Case of Police Abuse in Japan

Friday, January 2, 2009

In Japan, rape is often kept hush-hush. But the high-profile case of one rape victim is challenging the silent treatment and raising questions about police practices. 'Jane,' as the victim is known, is suing police who required her to re-enact the crime.

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In Japan, rape is often kept hush-hush. But the high-profile case of one rape victim is challenging the silent treatment and raising questions about police practices. 'Jane,' as the victim is known, is suing police who required her to re-enact the crime.
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Jane at December press conference.

(WOMENSENEWS)--An Australian woman who was raped by a U.S. Navy sailor in Japan in 2002 has settled the score, at least for the time being, with her assailant.

"Jane" as she calls herself, filed a civil suit against her assailant, a Wisconsin man named Bloke Deans, after the police here failed to bring criminal charges against him. In November 2004, she was awarded $49,555 in compensation from Japan's Ministry of Defense.

Now she's focused on what she calls her second rape by police officers at the nearby station where she sought help after the attack. The police didn't literally rape her, but they asked her to re-enact the crime in a way that she says left her feeling doubly assaulted.

She is seeking $182,000 in compensation.

She also says she's pressing the case to change a culture that prevents many women from bringing charges. "It is a silent culture where nobody says anything. But things are changing as more women begin to speak out," she told Women's eNews.

Although Jane has kept her real name out of news coverage, she has nonetheless become famous in Japan for talking about the taboo topic of her rape.

She sued the Kanagawa police for mistreatment and last week a judge dismissed her case in Tokyo's High Court.

Jane's lawyer, Mami Nakano, criticized the ruling. "If this kind of idea is tolerated in society, it would hinder rape victims from reporting their cases to police," she said.

In statements to the courts, the Kanagawa police have argued they are not obligated to provide rape victims with underwear or showers and it is an unreasonable request that investigations require the participation of a female officer. The police also said that because rape victims do not need urgent medical treatment they are not required to take them to emergency rooms and they do not believe Jane's assertion that she was too depressed by the crime to return to the scene. Taking re-enactment photos is normal protocol.

On Dec. 22 she appealed to Japan's Supreme Court. Jane says more than 40 lawyers from Kanagawa, Tokyo and Yokohama have offered to represent her appeal for free.


Rape in Van in Parking Lot

In the port city of Yokosuka, Jane was raped six years ago in her van in a parking lot after she left a bar in the early hours.

She says Deans, who was discharged from the USS Kitty Hawk in November 2002, has been allowed to avoid punishment by an unresponsive U.S. government despite her requests to learn how his case would be handled.

"I have been asking since the day I was raped," she says. "I even wrote letters to President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. military and government officials. They still have not gotten back to me."

Jane alleges that after the rape, she went to the police who then kept her in custody for 12 hours. She was afraid they would arrest her if she left and says she was in shock. The police moved her from a small room, then to the scene of the crime, then back to the station in a large room with other people.

She claims she was not fed, allowed to see a doctor, or given fresh underwear.

"I went to the Japanese police to seek help, sadly they didn't believe me," said Jane, who made her standard request for anonymity to protect the privacy of her three sons. "They interrogated me for several hours and the entire time I begged them to take me to the hospital. But they said I wasn't hurt enough and, if I was, then I had to show them where. I was told that on-duty doctors are for urgent patients and rape victims were not urgent."


Asked to Re-Enact the Crime

The worst offense, she says, occurred two months later, when the Kanagawa police asked her to return to the station to help investigators take re-enactment photographs. The photographer asked her to assume the various positions that the rape entailed. Incapable of doing so, Jane gave instructions to male and female officers so the photos could be taken.

"I was forced to become the director of my own rape," Jane says. "Re-enactment photographs must be banned. No human being should have to go through that. The police treated me without compassion or dignity."

Michael O'Connell, commissioner for Victim's Rights Australia, a government advocacy group, calls it one of the worst cases of police re-victimization that he has ever encountered.

"On hearing about Jane's plight, I was appalled that a victim of sexual assault would be treated with so little respect and dignity," he said in an e-mail to Women's eNews. "Internationally, the most progressive police know that their responsibilities to victims include protecting the victim, collecting and preserving evidence, and supporting the victim."

A report in late October by the United Nations Human Rights Committee found Japanese police practices in rape cases insufficient under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also found a shortage of doctors and nurses in Japan trained to handle sexual violence and raised concern about weak-to-nonexistent punishment of sexual violence.


Call for Rape Crisis Centers

"Japan urgently needs to develop a national network of rape crisis centers and hotlines, linking different professionals to support sexual assault victims," Dr. Hisako Motoyama, executive director of Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center in Tokyo, said in a recent interview. "We definitely need to reform our out-of-date criminal justice system, including review of the penal code, systemic training of judges and prosecutors, and enforceable guidelines."

Rape is widely regarded as one of the most shameful experiences in Japan, said Dr. Hisako Watanabe, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor at Keio University in Tokyo who has treated rape victims, including small children, for 35 years. Many victims, she said, suffer the aftermath on their own, without proper medical and mental care or any chances of suing the perpetrator.

In 2006, Japan's Gender Equality Bureau released a study finding that of 1,578 female respondents around 7 percent said they had been raped, at least once. Of those, only about 5 percent--6 out of 114--reported the crime to the police. Of those who remained silent, nearly 40 percent said they were "embarrassed."

"The public assumption in Japan continues to be that rape does not exist; therefore there isn't any need for 24-hour rape crisis centers or support groups," Watanabe said. "Rape is still considered rare and, even when it happens, the victim could be suspected of having enticed the perpetrator into the act. Such an attitude by people around the victim could be more detrimental than the trauma of rape itself."

Catherine Makino is currently the Japan foreign correspondent for Inter Press Service and is president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. She has worked for numerous other major publications and broadcasters.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.