Woman Sues Japanese Police over Rape Reenactment
Monday, January 5, 2009 2:17 PM

An Australian woman who was raped by a U.S. Navy member in Kanagawa, Japan, in 2002 is suing the Japanese police for asking her to reenact the rape when she attempted to report the crime.  The police officers did not literally rape her, but their requirement that she demonstrate in graphic detail what the rapist did to her amounted to another violation.

In 2004, the woman won a $49,555 award from the Japanese Ministry of Defense for the police's failure to bring criminal charges against the rapist. She is now seeking $182,000 for the further trauma she received at the hands of the police.

In court documents, the Kanagawa police has asserted that officers are not required to provide underwear or showers to rape victims; involve a female police officer in the case; or to bring victims to the hospital if they do not require urgent medical care. The police have also stated that it is their standard protocol to take re-enactment photographs at the scene of the crime with the victim present. However, the Australian woman says that the police asked her to reenact the rape two months later so that they could take photographs, which she wants to see banned.

In its Concluding Observations (Word, 10 pages) in October 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted many problems with Japan’s penal system. First, the crime of rape only covers sexual intercourse between a man and a woman where the victim actively resists the attacker and the victim submits a complaint. Secondly, judges often hand down light sentences and focus on victims’ past sexual experiences. Third, there are not enough medical services by professionals with rape victim training.

Another problem is that rape is a culturally taboo, shameful subject in Japan. A 2006 report by Japan’s Gender Equality Bureau found that less than six percent (six of 114 cases) of rape victims reported their attacks to the police. Moreover, there are only two rape crisis centers in the entire country.

Compiled from: Makino, Catherine, Rape Victim Presses Case of Police Abuse in Japan, WeNews, 2 January 2009; Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 40 of the Covenant: Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Japan, United Nations, CCPR/C/JPN/CO/5 (30 October 2008) (Word, 10 pages); Cartelle, Karryn, Victims finally learning to speak out against Japan’s outdated rape laws, Japan Today, last accessed 5 January 2009.