CLOSINGS: View Closings

Japan accused of failing sexual abuse survivors

In Japan, survivors of sexual assault and abuse face a culture of shame in addition to huge practical and legal hurdles if they want justice, critics say. CNN's Anna Stewart reports.

Posted: Apr 24, 2018 4:13 AM
Updated: Apr 24, 2018 4:23 AM

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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
Rochester
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 19°
Mason City
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 23°
Albert Lea
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 22°
Austin
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 21°
Charles City
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 19°
Colder Conditions To Start The Workweek
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Kindness tree on display in Rochester

Image

Advice for safe holiday decorating

Image

Aaron's Sunday Night Forecast

Image

Active shooter police standoff resolved after 9 hours

Image

Standoff in Albert Lea after 3 people shot

Image

Christmas tree shopping

Image

MC 'grateful' to play, adjusting with schedule changes

Image

Small business Saturday

Image

Sean's Weather 11/28

Image

Sidelined in quarantine: Coach Fennelly talks about his experience away from the game

Community Events