My mouth is agape and my fists are clenched with rage at some news items circulating Japan this week.
As you may recall, a tragic case of bullying left unchecked has put the issue of abuse in the spotlight as of late. Schools and police are responding to the concerns of the public and stepping up to fight the problem. Others choose to ignore it or, worse, defend the abusers from harm. Seriously.
A high school student in Sendai complained to his teachers that he was being bullied. Seeking an apology, he said classmates forced him to burn his own arm with a cigarette. The school agreed to hold a meeting between the boy and his attackers, but after it was over the student was expelled because he “showed off the burns to other students and made them anxious.” I’ve heard of blaming the victim before but this is insane.
Fortunately, the local police were more receptive when he showed them his arm. Now that they’ve accepted his report and have begun asking questions, suddenly the school says they will re-investigate the matter.
Unfortunately, not every victim is so lucky. A middle-schooler in Saitama went to the police four or five times over the past year to report being abused at school, alleging that his homeroom teacher knew what was happening. The cops turned him down.
This past January, a classmate bashed the boy’s head against concrete, knocking him unconscious and sending him to the hospital. Doctors say he had a broken rib (or ribs). The boy again went to the police and they said, quote, “Please forget this happened” and “Even if we accept your report, the accused is 12 so nothing will come of this.” The victim has since changed schools while his parents explore their legal options.
And in case you needed a reminder of how women’s rights are overlooked in Japan, we have this case of a Fukushima woman who attempted to file domestic abuse charges against her husband only to be dismissed by the police. Despite telling police that her husband “handcuffed her, choked her neck, and covered her mouth several times” the police shrugged their shoulders and said “There is no law that tries someone for causing inner (psychological) trauma.”
"You need to tolerate it because you are a married couple" said a heartless, misogynistic monster who had assumed human form and currently works as a police officer.
As if that weren’t enough, somehow word of the woman’s attempts to notify the police got back to her husband who, and this is shocking, objects to his wife’s repeated criminal complaints. Luckily the woman has already moved out and is filing for divorce, so presumably she is out of immediate danger. No word on where her kids are though.
Yet hope remains in all of these cases, because once a story makes it into the paper it becomes an embarrassment to the organizations involved, often prompting corrective action.
Case in point: I was repulsed when I heard last month of a female police officer in Yokohama who was ordered to strip by four male officers. She complained, they admitted to their behavior but no charges were filed because there was “no case.” Since that story broke, the police were flooded with angry calls and, whaddya know, they are now reconsidering their decision.
The Japanese word of the day is gaiatsu, (外圧) meaning “external pressure.” If anything like this ever happens to me, my wife, or our kids, I’m speed-dialing every media source I can. And I won’t stop until everyone who was wrong resigns, gets fired or goes to jail. Fuck any bureaucrat who turns away a victim.