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Sustained by silence: A cross-cultural examination of male violence against women By Steve Silver1

Domestic violence is at epidemic levels in both the United States and Japan. While substantial progress has been made with regard to protecting the rights of women in both law and policy, male violence against girls and women continues to be widespread in both countries, albeit manifested in different ways. Its consequences are devastating for women, their families and society and its causes, multiple. Prevention requires, among other things, a strong focus on cultural conceptions of gender, and how these conceptions contribute to the male violence against women that continues to be pervasive in American and Japanese society.

1. Introduction: Close to normal In the summer of 2003, Seiichi Ota a prominent Japanese lawmaker and former cabinet minister praised gang rapists before a symposium on Japans declining birth rate. Gang rape shows that those who do it are still vigorous, he said, continuing, I think that might make them close to normal (BBC News, 2003). Just a few days later, Yasuo Fukuda then Chief Cabinet Secretary, now Prime Minister was reported to have told reporters that some women are to blame for being raped. Some women really dress as if to say, Please do it, he was quoted as saying by the Shukan Bunshun, adding, men are like black panthers, so leniency [for rapists] can be contemplated (Yoshida, 2003; Tang, 2003). At the time that these statements were made, Fukuda was also serving as the Minister for Gender Equality. Such comments exemplify rape-myth mentality, i.e., that women as a class (not-so-) secretly wish to be raped and that men as a class (not-so-) secretly wish to rape. Men often rely on such myths to naturalize their own sexually violent behavior and to assign blame where it does not belong: to their victims (Schechory & Idisis, 2006). 2. Sexual assault: An epidemic Of course, rapist logic is not unique to Japanese politicians. Research reveals that college fraternity membership in the United States is positively associated with sexually violent male attitudes. Compared to non-fraternity men, fraternity men have been found to harbor profoundly reactionary attitudes toward women. Research also indicates that male attachment to the notion of sexual dominance is associated with self-reporting of sexual aggression (Bleecker & Murnen, 2005).
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Grateful acknowledgement is given to Tamarah Cohen for her assistance and support in writing this essay.

In Japan, the arrest and conviction of fourteen male students from an array of elite Tokyo-area universities, including (Yasuo Fukudas alma mater) Waseda University, sparked a national discussion (and a series of offensive off-the-cuff remarks by senior male politicians) about sexual assault on the nations college campuses. The students were members of an all-male social club called Super Free, whose mission was to intoxicate and gang rape female counterparts from mostly lesser known schools. The assailants even competed with each other over the number of women they raped (Tang, J., 2003; Wijers-Hasegawa, 2004). "The case shows that Japanese men, especially young men, are contaminated with a rape myth that a girl who joins a party wants to have sex," said Satoshi Sugita, a professor who published The Politics of Rape. "About 80 to 90 per cent of male high school students have seen an adult [pornographic] video, whose typical plot is a man raping a woman after having got her drunk (Green, 2003). Still, prosecutions for rape overall are relatively rare in Japan. While 2,076 rapes were reported in Japan during 2005, there were only 132 convictions. Out of 104 reported gang rapes, there were only five convictions (U.S. Department of State, 2007). This gives one pause when considering a statement made by former defense vice-minister Shingo Nishimura: If men did not face any punishment for raping women, then all men including myself would be rapists (as cited by Chan-Tiberghien, 2004). The problem, of course, is certainly not limited to university campuses. According to experts, molestation and statutory rape are common in Japanese schools, and victims rarely speak out. ''In Japan there is a rape myth, which says that the victim of a rape is always to blame,'' Akiko Kamei, a retired teacher and expert on classroom sexual abuse, was quoted as saying. In 2001, the Education Ministry reported 122 cases of molestation by teachers, a number that many claim is significantly underreported (French, 2003). In the United States, over 2,500 K-12 educators had their teaching licenses revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. Minors were involved in at least 1,800 cases, of which more than 80% were students. However, it is often the case that teachers accused of sexual abuse are dealt with within the school system or asked to leave quietly known as passing the trash in order to avoid lengthy court cases, union battles, or just public embarrassment for the school. This often leads to teachers moving on and committing similar acts of abuse in other districts. When teachers are punished or brought before a court of law, it is often the students who suffer from accusations of being seducers or of making false allegations, even though most investigators of misconduct among teachers find that to be a misconception (Irvine & Tanner, 2007). In the United States, one of every six women a total of nearly 18 million is a victim of rape, yet less than one in five file police reports (Tiaden & Thoennes, 2006). This underreporting 2

skews the data and results in a false perception among the general public regarding the magnitude of the problem (Dussich et al, 1996). When a rape is reported to police, the chance that an arrest will be made is just over half. Even if an arrest is made, only four out five suspects are prosecuted. Of those prosecuted, less than three of five receive felony convictions, of which only 69% are imprisoned. Therefore, of all the attacks reported to the police, less than one of five rapists spend time behind bars. Taking unreported rapes into account, an astonishing 15 of 16 rapists will not spend a day in jail for their crime (Reynolds, 1999). In addition, many women do not characterize their sexual victimization as criminal for a number of reasons, including embarrassment and self-blame (Fisher et al, 2000). Female college students, for example, reported 21 percent of stranger rapes and just two percent of acquaintance rapes (Dussich et al, 1996), even though half of all rapes in the United States are committed by someone the victim knows (Bachman & Saltzman, 1995). Indeed, college women on American campuses are at greater risk for sexual assault than non-student women of comparable age or women in the general population. The figures on intimate partner violence in both countries are startling. Nearly 25% of American women have been raped or assaulted by a current or former partner about 1.5 million women every year (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). From 1993 to 1999, intimate partners were responsible for killing nearly a third of all female murder victims between the ages of 20-24 (Rennison, 2001). Most intimate partner violence is not reported to police; approximately one-fifth of all rapes, one-fourth of all physical assaults, and one-half of all stalkings committed against women by intimate partners filed reports. Most victims who did not report their crimes believed the police were unwilling or unable to take any action on their behalf (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). The situation for women in Japan is similar, where only about a third of women who suffered from sexual and/or domestic violence by an intimate partner told no one of the violence. Much of this is due to the fact that police often refuse to intervene when called, particularly in cases of family disputes (ChanTiberghien, 2004; World Health Organization, 2005). In both countries, victims of date and marital rape are likely to be blamed and to have their ordeal minimized (Yamawaki & Tschanz, 2005). When such minimization occurs, the victims are often not offered the support or assistance they need (Campbell et al, 2001). It is common in the United States for both police and lawyers to discourage rape victims from filing charges when obvious signs of violence, such as torn clothing or bruises, are scarce. As a result, rape has the lowest conviction rate of all violent crimes. A similar trend has occurred in Japan where prosecution requires a formal complaint lodged by the victim. The rates of prosecution during 199092 were lower than for robbery, aggravated assault, and other violent crimes. Forty percent of convicted rapists are sentenced to terms of less than three years. The minimum sentence for rape is 3

lower than that of robbery (Wijers-Hasegawa, 2004). In general, prosecutors in Japan, unlike in the United States, are more interested in rectifying the victims injuries than rehabilitating the offender. One survey found that repairing the relations between the offender and the victim was seen by a majority of Japanese prosecutors as being an important objective, while it was not seen as important by any of the American prosecutors. In addition, factors such as the victims feelings about punishment and whether the suspect compensates the victim were often considered important when making decisions regarding the suspension of prosecution, even more so than a rape suspects prior record. Most Japanese prosecutors make the offender promise to adhere to conditions as part of the suspension, such as making restitution to the victim. Indeed, most prosecutors state that how the suspect is treated depends a great deal on whether or not such restitution has been made. In this context, restitution is considered an important display of contrition not only to the victim, but also to the prosecutors and judges who will determine the offenders punishment. Compensation, either directly to the victim or to a legal aid foundation or charity, can substantially reduce the time an offender has to remain behind bars (Johnson, 2002). This has obvious implications for those suspects who can afford to pay and those who cannot.

3. Lesser forms in greater numbers Public molestation, particularly on trains, is a problem both in Japan and the United States. The arrest of 13 men accused last year by the New York police department for genital exposure, masturbation and groping on New York subways trains brought reactions from a number of female riders who told of their victimization (Hartocollis, 2006). Many women are fighting back, for example, by taking cell phone pictures of sexual predators for the police. Blogs, too, are appearing around the country on which women can alert other girls and women to offenders and particularly dangerous areas (Holla Back, 2007). Unfortunately, most victims remain silence. In Tokyo, the number of reported cases of sexual molestation on trains has tripled since 1996 to a high of 2,200 in 2004 33% of which involved girls between the ages of 16-18. As in the United States, the vast majority of cases go unreported. In one survey of over 600 women, 63% said they had been molested on trains, yet less than 3% reported it (Daily Yomiuri, 2005, July 9). The staggering numbers have led railway companies in Tokyo and Osaka to institute women-only carriages during certain times of the day, and in 2001 the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly revised its anti-groping ordinance to make first-time offenders subject to imprisonment (U.S. Department of State, 2002). Sexual harassment did not enter the public discussion on a widespread scale in Japan until the 4

late 1980s, when the translation of an American handbook on stopping sexual harassment was published in Japan. The publication became extremely popular, and set off a series of publications, study groups, surveys, and telephone hot lines, such as one started by a Tokyo bar association. In 1992, a young woman in Fukuoka won $15,000 in a lawsuit against her male supervisor for sexual harassment, the first case of its kind in Japan (Chan-Tiberghien, 2004; French, 2001; Shimizu, 2006). However, according to a 1996 survey, while 53 per cent of Japanese affiliates in the United States had internal procedures to prevent sexual harassment, only 7.2 per cent of their Japan-based headquarters had similar instructions (Henshall, 1999). Sexual harassment was finally mentioned in government workplace rules in 1999 after a survey showed that 70 percent of female civil servants said that they had been sexually harassed (Chan-Tiberghien, 2004; French, 2001). In 1991, in front of several witnesses, Kitaguchi Kazuko, a municipal assemblywoman in Kumamoto, had her breasts fondled and then, following her objections, twisted in anger by a fellow assemblyman. When she brought charges against him, the District Prosecutor's Office declined to indict him on the grounds that he was intoxicated at the time and had already suffered enough social punishment since the incident. Following this decision, the assemblywoman reproached the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly regarding their lack of action to address the issue of sexual harassment; instead of taking up the issue, however, the Assembly formally reprimanded her (Henshall, 1999). Eight years later, the results of a survey were released which found that nearly one of five women working for the Defense agency had been forced into sexual relationships with male supervisors or colleagues (Japan Times, 1999). That same year, a university student successfully sued the comedian-turned-governor of Osaka prefecture, Knock Yokoyama, for molesting her when she was working for his campaign. She was awarded the unprecedented amount of $110,000. In response to accusations and to Yokoyamas comments about such a small thing as sexual harassment, womens groups mounted a letter-writing campaign pressing the prosecutors office to bring charges against the governor. A week after the judgment was issued, Yokoyama was forced to resign, replaced by a female governor the first in Japans history. Yokoyama was later tried for indecent assault, where he apologized and was given a suspended sentence. While she might have won the lawsuit which was considered by one Upper House member as a major step forward for womens rights in Japan the victim suffered not only from the humiliation of the incident itself, but from a lack of support from friends and family regarding her decision to sue, with her father going so far as to sever relations with her. On the advice of her lawyers, she remained anonymous, testifying at the trial behind a screen and writing a book about the ordeal under a fictitious name (Chan-Tiberghien, 2004; French, 2001). However, successful litigation against workplace sexual harassment from the early 1990s on as well as revisions in the 1997 amendments to the Equal Opportunity Law continued to attract attention to the issue (Gelb, 2003). Employers are now legally obligated to provide training and 5

counseling services in order to help prevent sexual harassment; however, the most the government can do with regard to punitive measures is to publish the names of companies not in compliance with the law. Despite the relatively toothless nature of the law, however, many companies have begun taking sexual harassment seriously, with more firms obtaining the services of sekuhara busters consultants that assist employers in preventing sexual harassment at the workplace (Botting, 2002). Sexual harassment complaints filed with Equal Employment Opportunity offices have risen from 850 in 1994 to 2,534 in 1997, and 7,706 in 2004, due in large part to more women reporting incidents, according to experts (Chan-Tiberghien, 2004; Shimizu, 2006). However, in a 2005 survey, only 12.8% of women reported that the revisions in the Equal Opportunity Law made their work life easier (Daily Yomiuri, 2005, November 11). Sexual harassment law in the United States has been determined both by Congress and in the courts. In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down four decisions related to sexual harassment, more than all previous years combined (Stein, 1999). Sexual harassment at the workplace is considered a form of sex discrimination that is legally prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); however, this law only applies to those companies with 15 or more employees. In fiscal year 2006, the EEOC received over 12,000 complaints of sexual harassment, 85% of which were filed by women, and recovered over $48M in monetary benefits (EEOC, 2007). One of the first mentions in the press of sexual harassment at the workplace came in a 1975 New York Times article calling sexual harassment extremely widespread and epidemic (Nemy, 1975). Four years later, the publication of Catherine MacKinnons Sexual Harassment of Working Women continued to raise the issue among lawyers, academics, and the general public, with more research being conducted regarding the prevalence of workplace harassment (Welsh, 2000). However, sexual harassment was brought to the public fore in a dramatic and very public manner when Anita Hill was called to testify before the Senate regarding the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. In her testimony, she stated that she was the victim of repeated acts of sexual harassment by Thomas when she worked for him. Despite the fact that her claims were supported by the testimony of an additional victim and witnesses, the Senate which was, at that time, 98% male narrowly voted to confirm Thomas (United States Senate, 1993). Some have argued, however, that the ensuing fallout from the nationally televised hearings led to increased pressure on President George H.W. Bush to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which strengthened sexual harassment law under Title VII. Plaintiffs under this amendment also gained the right to a jury trial in sexual harassment cases. In addition, it allowed courts to award punitive and compensatory damages in sexual harassment cases, as well as monetary and non-monetary losses, such as emotional pain and suffering (Saguy, 2003). The passage of this law, as well as later Supreme Court cases, led 6

to more companies providing training to employees in avoiding sexual harassment a development that has been credited by some experts for reducing the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC from a peak of 15,889 in 1997 to 12,679 in 2005. The State of California has gone even further since 2005, it has required all supervisors in firms with more than 50 employees to receive such training, and supervisors themselves can be held personally liable for their own acts of harassment. Furthermore, the average jury award for harassment nationwide has increased from $141,000 in 1994 to $1 million last year (Benson, 2006; MacLean, 2006). Adults are certainly not the only victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. One recent study found that girls are subject to staggering amount of sexual harassment on the job, with over 46% of female working students reporting that they had been subject to harassment. The EEOC has seen a substantial increase in the number of complaints filed by teenagers, and has brought cases against major fast food chains and retail companies, often leading to large settlements (Katz & Andronici, 2006). Teenagers are no safer at school, however; in a study of 342 urban high school students, 87% of girls had been victims of sexual harassment by their peers (Fineran & Bennet, 1999).

4. Home: No safe haven Domestic violence in the United States has been described as an unacknowledged epidemic and terrorism in the home (as cited in Schafer et al, 1998). Thirty percent of Americans say that they know a woman who has been abused physically by her husband or boyfriend in the past year (as cited in Randel & Wells, 2003). But domestic violence does not always happen behind closed doors: over a third of all intimate partner violence occurs in the presence of a third party (Planty, 2002). On average, more than three women a day are killed by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States (Rennison, 2003). The financial costs alone are mind-boggling; intimate partner rape, physical assault and stalking amount to over $5.8 billion a year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health care services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003). One-fifth of all full-time employed adults have been victims of domestic violence, with women losing nearly eight million days of work every year due to being threatened, stalked, or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner. Despite this fact, less than a quarter of the largest private sector employers provide training in dealing with domestic violence, and only four percent of employers overall provide such training (Holland, 2007). While the number of female victims killed by intimate partners in United States is far more than that of Japan, its proportion to the total female murder victims in the United States is similar (as 7

cited in Yoshihama, 2002). Despite ongoing research that showed the pervasiveness of domestic violence in Japan, the government was still largely in denial; one man who served in the early 1990s as the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations, when asked about domestic violence in Japan, replied, I dont think we have this problem in our country. A telephone hot line for battered women was not established until 1994, and the term domestic violence did not even appear in a government publication in Japan until 1996, when it was used in a public policy paper written by the Council on Gender Equality within the Prime Ministers Office. In that same publication, the government finally placed the issue of violence against women within the context of womens human rights. The Tokyo metropolitan government conducted the first public survey of domestic violence in Japan the following year. From 1997 to 2001, several legal changes relating to protecting the rights of women were adopted, among which were measures outlawing stalking and domestic violence (ChanTiberghien, 2004). Still, according to a 2002 study, nearly one in every twenty Japanese women felt their lives were in danger due to domestic violence from their husband or boyfriend, and almost one of every five women have been victims of physical assault, threats, or sexual coercion from a male intimate partner (United Nations Development Fund for Women, 2003). In 2006, the National Police Agency (NPA) received over 16,000 complaints of domestic violence, an increase of eight percent from the previous year and the highest level recorded since the NPA started maintaining such statistics in 2002. Whether this represents an increase in domestic violence or an increase in reporting on the part of the victims is unclear. The number of court protection orders issued for victims of domestic violence that same year rose to 2,247, a three percent increase (Japan Times, 2007). During 2005, spousal violence consultation assistance centers reported 51,358 consultations (U.S. Department of State, 2007); however, there are only 52 domestic violence shelters and 634 female counselors, most of whom were part-time. In the Tokyo metropolitan area, there are only two public shelters with less than 50 rooms serving a population of twelve million people. While a law outlawing domestic violence was finally passed in 2001, the law only allows a woman to obtain a restraining order against her partner for a period of six months, and renewals are often difficult. Foreign women who are victimized by Japanese men often have neither the social network nor the language skills to depend upon when seeking assistance (Allen, 2006; Chan-Tiberghien, 2004).

5. Conclusion: Sustained by silence While substantial progress has been made with regard to protecting the rights of women in both law and policy, male violence against girls and women continues to be an epidemic in both Japanese and American society, albeit manifested in different ways. Its consequences are devastating 8

for women, their families and society and its causes, multiple. What is clear, however, is that male-perpetuated violence is fundamentally a learned behavior, shaped by sex role expectations and sociocultural norms that support female subordination. Prevention requires, among other things, a strong focus on cultural conceptions of gender, and how these conceptions contribute to the male violence against women that is so pervasive in both Japanese and American society. Most importantly, violence against women cannot continue to be sustained by a culture of silence; the voices of victims must be heard.

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