Japan’s Double Jeopardy? – Japan has a very low crime rate, but women are discouraged from reporting sex crimes and a reporting of such crimes often meets with hostility from the police; a specific case is described

Japan’s Double Jeopardy? – Japan has a very low crime rate, but women are discouraged from reporting sex crimes and a reporting of such crimes often meets with hostility from the police; a specific case is described – Brief Article

Willis Witter

An American’s quest fop justice ended with her `second rape’ by Japanese police and prosecutors — or so claim critics of Japan’s criminal-justice system and its attitude toward women,

On a sunny summer afternoon in Tokyo, American Raelyn Campbell was hurrying home to prepare for a trip back to the United States. As she opened the door of her third-floor apartment, she was pushed to the floor and pinned by a lone stalker. She screamed. The attacker fled, and Campbell’s fear turned to rage. She chased the attacker down the stairs to a shop-lined street. He tripped and fell, and it was Campbell’s turn to pounce.

“My first thought was, `Go for the man’s wallet,'” recalls Campbell, 28. “I had it clutched with both hands, half way out of his jacket pocket.” With the man also clutching the wallet and bewildered shoppers looking on, she managed to drag him into her landlord’s office, where she held him until police arrived.

The story might have ended there, a heroic feat of self-defense. Instead, Campbell became the victim in what critics call a cruel system of “second rape” by police, prosecutors and judges.

“I’m not the only one going through this,” says Campbell, who until recently worked as an aide to a member of Japan’s parliament. “This is something they do to women all the time in this country.”

Today, more than six months after the attack, Campbell finds herself waging an uphill battle to bring her attacker to trial. For months, police discouraged her from pressing charges, arguing that the man probably would be fined only $400; they joked he “could have gotten a lot more downtown” — an apparent reference to a prostitute. A police spokesman denies the remark was ever made.

Rape and other sex crimes in Japan remain hidden from much of the outside world and even to the Japanese themselves. The subject of violence against women is so taboo in Japan that reporters covering the Campbell case say they have trouble getting the story past editors. A Japanese court found a man innocent of groping a woman in the subway because judges believed her coat was too thick for her to feel the man’s hands.

“The biggest problem is that the victim and the people around her do not have the firm belief that sexual assault is a human-rights violation,” says Mizuho Fukushima, a member of Japan’s parliament, author and a nationally known civil-rights lawyer who has represented rape and abuse victims for more than decade. “Women who go to the police … are quite often told it was their fault.”

Japan, a nation of 125 million, has perhaps the lowest crime rate in the industrial world. A woman can forget a handbag at a restaurant and be reasonably certain it will be there when she realizes her loss. Armed robbery is so rare that a single holdup typically becomes front-page news from one end of the nation to the other. Rates of reported sex crimes are minuscule — in 1997, a mere 1,657 cases.

Women’s groups say sex crimes are rarely reported, in part because the victims are relentlessly grilled by police, prosecutors and judges. “There are laws to protect offenders’ rights, but there is absolutely nothing to protect victims’ rights,” says Junko Suzuki, a counselor with a Tokyo-based group called Support Against Rape and Abuse.

Such is the case with Campbell — or so she claims. The attack occurred Sept. 10, yet the suspect was not arrested until Nov. 18. “One reason we could not [initially] arrest the man is that we needed a more detailed account from Campbell,” says Katsuaki Aoki, deputy chief of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Fukagawa police station near the site of the attack. “Because she had to leave the country, we could not get it.”

When Campbell returned to the station Sept. 17, however, she says police claimed the man could not be prosecuted on sexual-assault charges because he did not touch her skin, and that it was necessary to include her name and address in the statement that the accused signed during the initial investigation.

Meanwhile, Campbell fell victim to recurring nightmares about the attack. She lost more than 15 pounds in the next two months, growing so weak she passed out in a crowded subway train. But when the suspect was arrested, the prosecutor indicated the case would not come to trial because it was the man’s first offense.

Campbell, who studied at the University of Tokyo, took matters into her own hands, publishing her story in a monthly newsletter by a Tokyo public-policy organization under the headline, “Raped (by the Cops) in Tokyo.” In February, she posted her story on the Internet, in English and Japanese, and launched an e-mail campaign urging people to phone or fax messages of protest to everyone from the local police to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

Thus far, police have treated the e-mail campaign as a nuisance at best — and an obstacle to resolving the case at worst. “I don’t believe the police did anything wrong, but if we ever did, we would apologize,” says Aoki. “Now Campbell is sending e-mail all over the world and talking to newspapers so we really can’t do anything.”

But Campbell’s battle against the system may be over. She plans to leave Japan next month to join her husband, who recently found a job in Los Angeles. “If this hadn’t happened, I’d already be gone,” she says. “In a way, it’s not really my battle anymore. This is something for Japanese women to fight.”

COPYRIGHT 1999 News World Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group