(Yuta Takahata's release from jail; apologizes for causing trouble but not to the victim directly.)
Rape has been in the news a lot recently. And not just in the US. Japan has seen its fair share of rape cases lately as well. In late August, actor Yuta Takahata was arrested on alleged sexual assault charges against a female hotel clerk in her 40s. Takahata is said to have called the front desk to ask for a toothbrush he didn’t need; when the female clerk came to his door with said toothbrush, he “couldn’t contain himself” and forcibly grabbed her, dragging her to the bed and raping her.
When I first heard the news, I instantly became curious as to how things would play out here compared with the way rape cases are handled in the US. However, in the end, the justice system and media here let me down just as much as the American ones did.
On September 9th, Takahata was released from jail as a result of an out of court settlement. I don’t blame the victim for settling. It’s one thing to be raped by a nobody and have your life and the events of that day dissected by the people of the court; it’s another when you’re raped by a celebrity and have a media circus breathing down your neck, waiting for every detail to be spilled. (Not necessarily to victim blame, but just because the person involved just happens to be famous.)
Anyway, I happened to catch an afternoon news program discussing the case and the settlement when I heard that Takahata’s lawyer had released a press statement regarding the case. I’ve roughly translated and summarized the statement as follows:
Mr. Takahata has been released from jail following an out of court settlement with the victim. It is my belief that there was no ill intent on Mr. Takahata’s behalf, nor was there sufficient resistance from the female victim. With cases like this, if the victim’s opposition was not fully understood by the attacker, the case will end in a “not guilty” verdict.
There also seems to be discrepancies between my client’s version of the story and what is being dispersed throughout the media. There was, in fact, no call to bring a toothbrush, etc.
Finally, due to the lack of malice and my client’s belief that the act was consensual, even if the case would have proceeded to the courts, we would have pleaded “not guilty.” Hence, why the police prosecutor and the victim herself have chosen not to take that path.
(Translated from original source posted on HuffPost Japan)
This press release is very disturbing. Not only is the lawyer down-playing the rape, she’s essentially refocusing the blame onto the victim. The lawyer’s version of events makes it seem like it’s all a big misunderstanding- “ He didn’t mean to. He thought she said yes. She didn’t make herself clear.”
Now this is where things get messy. Japanese culture often pressures women to be demure and non-ambitious. According to an article on violence against women in Japan, “…another important factor is that victims are generally portrayed as being non-assertive, passive, and patient. In particular, Japanese society is only mildly tolerant of female victims who react with anger and aggression towards their assailants or who assert and articulate their rights” (Konishi). With this kind of societal pressure, it’s easy to understand why many Japanese women choose to not prosecute their attackers, or don’t even bother to come forward. It’s shameful and hurtful, and the justice system doesn’t make it any easier.
According to a Japan Times article, in which a foreign exchange student recounts her ordeal with being raped in Japan, Japanese law makes it very difficult to pursue a rape case in which physical violence is lacking. This makes it so very easy to sweep rape under the rug, since an overwhelming amount of rapes happen outside that “violent” category (Japan Times).
Which brings me back to Takahata’s settlement. Once I read about the enormous room for interpretation in Japanese law regarding how to prosecute rape cases, it became so much clearer as to why the victim settled. Unfortunately, it’s just as Takahata’s lawyer says: if the case had gone to trial, it would’ve almost certainly ended in a “not guilty” verdict. With a lack of support for rape victims in the Japanese justice system (and the healthcare system! No rape kits here), it makes it not worth it to go to trial.
As disappointing as it can seem, there’s always a silver lining: we won’t be seeing Mr. Takahata on TV or in movies for a long, long time.