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Japan: Reactions to alleged Okinawa rape

The news last week that U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tyrone Hadnott had allegedly raped a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Okinawa sparked various degrees of condemnation from local citizens, politicians, the government and bloggers [ja], reigniting anger at the continued presence of American military bases in Japan's southernmost prefecture. While different in many ways from the current case, a famous gang rape by U.S. military personnel in 1995 remains fresh in the minds of many Okinawans, adding to feelings of frustration.

In describing cases of rape in Japan such as this one, media tend to avoid the word “rape” (強姦) in favor of the less direct expression “violence” (暴行). Freelance journalist and blogger Uesugi Takashi comments on this use of language, and on differences between local and national media in their coverage of the case:

また、米海兵隊員による性犯罪が発生しました。
『沖縄タイムズ』は号外を出し、比較的静かな本土との報道の差が気になります。
だいたい「少女暴行」とありますが、はっきり言って「未成年者への強姦」(レイプ)でしょう。
それを「暴行」と、言葉を緩める意味が果たしてあるのか?
「援助交際」とか「婦女暴行」とか、性犯罪用語を曖昧にする日本の報道は、被害者への配慮というよりも、加害者への贖罪意識の軽減につながってしまっているようです。
こうした性犯罪は、絶対許さないという姿勢で報じるように変えていくべきでしょう。

Another sex crime by a US Marine.
I sense the difference between the “Okinawa Times”, which put out an extra edition, and the relatively quiet mainland reporting on this.
[Mainland reporting] refers to it as something like an “violence against a young woman” (少女暴行), but speaking frankly, this is “rape of a minor” (未成年者への強姦).
Is there even any point in softening these words and referring to it as “violence” (暴行)?
In using terminology like “compensated dating” and “violence against young women” for sex crimes, Japanese reporting, more than considering the victim, tends to reduce the sense of atonement of the assailant.
There should be a change in attitude to one that absolutely does not put up with this kind of sex crime.

While there was considerable hostility voiced at the U.S. military presence, on Internet bulletin boards the incident also attracted heavy criticism targeted at the high-school girl herself [ja] for (allegedly) not being careful enough and allowing this incident to happen. One blogger, for example, wrote of the girl's “frivolousness”:

沖縄の米兵による中学生暴行事件
よく聞いたら
バイクに乗せて家まで送ってあげると言われて
バイクに乗ってしまったのが原因だとか
バカか・・・・
そんなの、暴行してくださいとお願いしてるようなもんよ
軽薄な行動が呼んだ事件としか言いようがない
この女の子の軽薄さに腹が立つ

The rape of the junior high-school student by American soldier in Okinawa.
If you listen carefully:
She was asked if she would like a lift home by motorbike,
And she actually got on the bike, that was the cause.
So stupid…
That kind of thing, it's just like asking: assault me please.
No way to describe this but as frivolous actions just asking for something to happen.
This girl's frivolousness really makes me angry.

Blogger VcCS expressed a similar sentiment:

沖縄県で、またもや米兵による強姦事件が発生!
女子中学生を乗用車に乗せ、車内で暴行をしたという。こういう事件を見ると、結果的には米兵の罪が問われるのだが、そこに至る経緯も気になる。決して、暴行に及んだ米兵をかばうつもりはない。
だけど、被害にあった女子学生は、米兵から声をかけられ、その誘いを受けたことで、こうした事件を招いている。それが知り合いであれば事情が変わったのかもしれないが、見知らぬ人からの誘いを受ける方にも問題があるように思えてならない。
沖縄という土地柄、米兵による強姦事件は後を絶たない。
だからこそ、その土地の女性はもっと用心すべきだ!それにもまして、親はもっと子供に責任を持つべきではないか?
過去に起こった事件から学び、もう少し責任ある行動を取ってもらいたい。
加害者がどんな裁きを受けようとも、被害者の傷跡は消すことが出来ないから

In Okinawa Prefecture, there was another incident of rape by American military!
A girl in junior high school got into a car, and was assaulted inside. The American military should ultimately be held responsible for this crime, but I also wonder about the process that led up to it.
I absolutely do not want to defend the American soldier who called her [into the car].
But the high school girl who was victimized, the American soldier called out to her, and she accepted this invitation, so she asked for this incident [to happen]. It would be different if this was an acquaintance of hers, but I cannot help feeling that there is a problem with a person who accepts an invitation from someone they don't even know.
In the local character of Okinawa [*], these cases of rape by American military personnel are never-ending.
And that's exactly why girls in those places should be more careful! Even more than that, shouldn't parents take more responsibility for their children?
I want them to learn from past incidents and act a little more responsibility.
Because however the assailant ends up being charged, there is no way to erase the victims scars!

[*] Referring to the fact that Okinawa has many U.S. army bases.

For more about this story, see also this English-language post and a long set of comments responding to it.

  • Casper

    You write this as if you’re excusing the rapist.

    Yes women should not trust US service men, and yes they should not go near them, but as this does shows that this does not happen then maybe they should do something about the service men how commit rape.

  • http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/author/chris-salzberg/ Chris Salzberg

    Hi Casper,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Actually I don’t excuse the rapist at all, these are views expressed by bloggers and in online bulletin boards (which is why I used the word “allegedly” and put scare quotes around “frivolousness”). Whether you agree with the view or not, it seems to be pretty widely-held. What I’m trying to do here is give a sense of what is being talked about, not what I personally think.

    Hope that helps.

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  • Tessy

    Well in this one case this is totally bogus! I know of the girl in question! She was with her 2 friends and the American asked her if she wanted get it on. She said yes and climbed on the back of his bike. When they got to HIS HOUSE she changed her mind and he gave her a ride home in his car. He tried to kiss her and she freaked out. Then she went over to her friends house and pretended to cry about it for sympathy. That would have been fine but her friends made her (or they did themselves I’m not sure yet) call the cops.

    And that’s it.

    Come on people!!! you don’t take a girl you intend to rape to your house and you don’t give them a ride home either! And if you saw this girl you would all think she was 17 or 18 easy! And not all that good looking either.

    This whole thing is BS!

    Now, there have been cases in the past that were NOT BS but this one clearly is!

  • http://soldave.thedeepstop.com Dave

    Crazy stuff in Okinawa. Reports of a rape of a Philippino girl just breaking, rumours of an armed forces guy and his wife being set upon by a big group of people last weekend in the evening (don’t look for that one to be reported in the J-media).

    Have been writing extensively on this topic on my site and it’s pretty messed up. The lockdown is going to harm local businesses and the local economy, and is already frustrating the SOFA-status personnel here. Hopefully it will be lifted in the very near future

  • Rachel

    The thing I need to point out is that many people keep saying this marine raped this young girl. Being on the island myself I am hearing up-to-date information as it comes out. Is the rape kit back? Is it proved that he has actually raped her. Rumor has it, as of last night, that the Marine was released due to the rape kit coming back negative. So is it fair to keeping talking as if this person is already guilty of rape. He is certainly guilty of misconduct and acting inappropriately for which he deserves to be punished but if he is not guilty of rape is it fair to accuse and bash Americans so badly. I have enjoyed my time here on the island but lets be honest the minute that a service member does something bad we are all crucified like we the Americans are some inhumane awful people. Lets not forget everything the military does for surronding communities. It is our servicemembers who go to orphanages or to the senior citizens facilities, clean the beaches and preform community services. Let’s not forget about the festivals we have on base to invite Okinawans on base for cultural exchanges. There are many many good things that the Americans and services members/military do on this island but it seems to be quickly forgotten or is unappreciated when something like this happens. I understand the severity of the incident and feel that if found to be guilty this Marine should pay but it is automatically being assumed that it was done and now the military and all Americans are getting trashed.

    What needs to be realized is that incidents like this happen and these types of incidents don’t just happen with Americans, but it is the Americans that are scrutinized terribly when isolated incidents do happen. Is it fair to categorize the whole American community or the military as being bad because of the actions of ignoranant people such as this Marine and the isolated incidents that take place?

  • ikeo

    Rachel,
    I believe that you need not to be so sensitive. I don’t think anti-american feelings have risen up at the national level. And as you know, all the okinawans are not anti-GIs and many deplore the decrease of sales in local business. Some media are trying to use this case to pursue their agenda in vain.

    I add that this case is not reported in japanese by using the word “rape”, but “violence”. I don’t have any judgement, but many think it mqy be difficult to prove this guy is guilty of rape.

  • http://soldave.thedeepstop.com/ Dave

    I think it will be very difficult to prove this guy is guilty of rape. But whether he will be charged with it and found guilty is probably another matter completely.

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  • Maki

    I just wanted to say…
    the way we Okinawans (especially the young ones)
    think or TRUST another human being is totally
    different from the way the majority of the western
    people or even mainland Japanese people think.

    We trust, trust and trust. Some might call it brainless
    but that´s the way it has been. There was no need for us
    to be doubtful and fearful, however it´s changing.

    I had my money stolen by an American person whom
    I considered as a friend when I was 19.
    My friend who lent some money to her new friend from Tokyo never saw her money back when she was 20.

    We learn only then NOT TO TRUST people.

    Lucky it was only money for us.

    Some comments made by bloggers above sounded like
    they judged the 14 year old girl without being aware
    of the values and common sense we have here in Okinawa.

    I wish one day we all could accept, understand others
    and stop judging each other.

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