Charging The Police
In a nation without a victim's rights law, being sexually assaulted was only the brief beginning of Raelyn Campbell's ordeal.
FORMER DIET AIDE CHARGES POLICE
ASSAULTED WOMAN CALLS FOR A VICTIM'S RIGHTS LAW
By Angela Jeffs
"This is not about an American woman being sexually assaulted by a Japanese man," Raelyn Campbell told members of the press March 17. "It's about any woman -- Japanese or non-Japanese -- being brutalized not just once by her assailant, but again by the police and legal system she has to go through to gain justice. It's a man's world here, and we have no rights."
Campbell's story begins six months ago, when she was followed home by a man who ran up the stairwell while she rode the elevator to her third-floor apartment in Koto Ward, Tokyo. "He slammed me against the door, pushed me down, pinning me to the floor, and would not stop groping me."
When she found her voice and began screaming, he tried to escape, but Campbell was able to catch him after chasing him out of the building and down the street. When no one passing by would help, despite pleas in fluent Japanese, she dragged the man to her landlord's office and had the police called.
"After describing the attack I explained that I'd returned midafternoon to pick up luggage for a five-day trip home to the U.S. I gave the officers a detailed statement and my contact numbers, making it to Narita with only minutes to spare. I was promised a 'harsh investigation' -- and a report that never came."
Raelyn Campbell has spent the last three years working as a foreign policy research aide to a politician in the Diet. Even at junior high school in Oregon she showed a marked interest in foreign relations, being involved in cultural exchanges and helping students from abroad adjust to American life.
She spent a year in a high school in Sendai as a Rotary International scholar. "I'd spent a year studying the language, and Japan was the hot topic." She went home to graduate, returned for a year at Waseda, then went back to graduate from college. "I came again in April 1995 to study international politics at Todai and soon began working part-time at the Diet."
She would have joined her husband in Los Angeles last autumn but for what happened. "I've stuck it out alone for the last six months because if I didn't pursue the assault, then who would?"
The day after her return from the U.S. she visited Fukagawa Police Station only to be told that because her interest in pursuing the case "could not be confirmed," all they could do on the day of the incident was have the man make a statement. "I was told repeatedly that because the case had been already processsed, it would be 'inconvenient' if I insisted on filing charges."
The police stressed her attacker's remorse, but it seemed to Campbell that a man who used the Japanese equivalent of "she regrettably nabbed me" regretted only one thing: His capture. Also, he admitted only to touching her bottom, shich she calls a lie. When she protested against this, she was told that it wouldn't matter because 'unless skin is touched, the only law that applies is the municipal Molestation Ordinance."
But her case was serious, she pressed; she had scrapes, bruises and sprains to prove the point. "I questioned why this man, who had stalked me and tried to rape me, knew not only my address but my name, my age and other personal data. This information, given in his handwritten statement, could only have come from one source: the police.
In defense, investigators said they thought the man was "weak-willed." He had already suffered "considerable damage" after a phone call to his employer, for whom he continues to work as a door-to-door salesman, despite now having a police record. As Campbell noted, "He's still knocking on doors selling products to women at home alone."
Investigators assigned to her case suggested prosecution was futile, that at most her efforts would yield only a small settlement, say 50,000 yen. When one officer joked that the man must have been stupid, because "for the price of the fine he could have gotten a lot more downtown," Campbell was incensed. "They likened what happened to me to the hiring of a prostitute. But a sexual crime is an act of violence against a woman's will. It has nothing to do with cash transactions for sex or consensual relations between adults."
She went to a lawyer. Three weeks later the police called her in to inform her for the first time that she would need a doctor's certificate detailing injuries received in the assault. When she queried why she was being advised of this at such a late stage, despite on-the-scene witnesses, she learned that officers now claimed they had seen nothing.
She allowed pictures to be taken of the damage that hadn't healed even after three weeks, but refused to pose for a full-length shot "so that the accused could identify her." When she also resisted the idea of posing for on-the-scene reconstruction photos of the assault, the investigator shouted: "This is how it's done in Japan! I can't understand you Americans!"
The police statement she saw, which replicated that of the offender, was full of misinformation. "Both (statements) said I was wearing a floral jacket. Well, this is the jacket I was wearing..." she said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, pointing to the fabric, a black-and-white check. "As if any woman in my position would go to work in a floral jacket!"
Her request to meet the original officers who took her statement was refused. "I've also spent a total of nine hours over the last two days at the Prosecutor's Office giving a final statement and fighting to have a dozen different points revised to accurately protray my version."
The first time she was called to the Prosecutor's Office, she was told that the prosecutor had the right to waive charges at his discretion, According to the Penal Code, Article 176, indecent assault is a felony in Japan, carrying a prison term of six months to seven years. Should such crime result in injury, as in Campbell's case, the prescribed sentence according to Article 181 is three years to life.
The odds appear to be against indictment. The prosecutor cited the offender's "above-average candidness" and the authorities' view that the man "did not seem likely to repeat such an offense," also that it might not be in society's interest to prosecute a man who helps support his parents. Campbell hopes for a decision in her favor before her visa expires April 5, but as things stand she is not hopeful.
"I have communicated many times with the Japanese press, but to date no mention of the campaign has made it into print," she said. "Often in this country news is not news until the foreign press takes up an issue, then it gets space and discussion. This is why I'm here today."
Over the entrance of Fukagawa Police Station hangs a banner that translates as "Courage to speak out without hesitation -- the first step." But what, Campbell asks, is the point if complaints fall on deaf ears? She feels that while she saved herself from rape, she has been less successful in defending herself against a system that exists -- supposedly -- to shield her. "Japan has serious problems relating both to the handling of sex crimes and the legal system itself."
Unlike in other developed countries, there is no law in Japan protecting the rights of the victim. "Official crime rates are so low that Japan has a reputation for being one of the safest societies in the world. However, while 1,687 cases of sexual assault made it to the court in 1997, this is out of 6,055 officially recognized cases. Of those convicted, 561 were let off without time served. I question that."
She has been told by the Ministry of Justice that it "does not keep data" on estimates of unreported cases. Nor incidents that have been reported without charges filed. If the Prosecutor's Office does not call for an indictment, she fears that her case will become yet another statistical nonevent, allowing the course of nonjustice to roll on.
After three months her assailant offered to pay 500,000 yen if -- and only if -- she dropped all charges. "That's absurd. The prosecutor called the offer 'remorse.'" And to the Japanese journalist who in answer to her e-mail campaign addressed her as a "self-righteous American," she has this to say: Her pursuit of justice is not simply about Raelyn Campbell, who after being attacked, suffered so many nightmares and fits of trembling fear that she had to find new accommodation.
"It's about women's rights in Japan, where the system rapes us twice over. I protest victim's rights abuses by the Japanese authorities and call for a nationwide movement to demand the immediate enactment of a Victim's Rights Act."
There may have been a small step in the right direction at the Diet March 10, when a group of parliamentarians, led by advocate Mizuho Fukushima and Isamu Ueda, a member of the Legal Affairs Committee -- and the only targeted member who answered her e-mail campaign -- met representatives from the National Police Agency.
After politely listening to Campbell tell her story, the NPA listed measures they were taking to improve the situation, including increasing female respresentation. However, the fact that they failed to include even a token woman in their delegation seems to indidate they were missing the point, revealing a fundamental flaw in their understanding.
Campbell says she will not leave Japan with bitterness, rather a disappointment in society's passivity. Yet she freely admits to having recieved an abundance of personal support from Japanese friends and colleagues. "I will be back, but right now I need to touch base with my husband and find a job in policy back home. Feeling that I've honestly done my best, I need my life to move on."
To participate in the e-mail campaign or view the full text of the protest letter, with contact numbers for the relevant authorities, check out: http://www.geocities.co.jp/Playtown-Denei/3053/protest.html.