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ASIJ abuse scandal stirs dark memories among readers

The following are some letters and online comments in response to Jon Mitchell’s The Foreign Element articles about the American School in Japan sexual abuse case (here and here). Teacher Jack Moyer, who committed suicide in 2004, is believed to have abused as many as 32 female students — some as young as 9 years old — at his home in Tokyo and during school excursions to Miyakejima, an island 180 km southwest of the capital.

Memories tainted by hurt

I vividly remember riding the overnight boat from Tokyo to Miyakejima in the late spring of 1986. I’ve never been a good sleeper, especially away from home, and certainly wasn’t about to sleep on that boat. As I lay there, I glanced over at my friend lying next to me and watched her closed lids flutter, sleeping the sleep of the innocent, and dreams without nightmares.

Middle school was rough, but that week was one of my best memories of ASIJ. Friendships were renewed, new ones made, and we bonded, even with our teachers. I still have my cow ring and the handmade paper books we wrote bad seventh-grade poetry in. My sleeping friend wrote about how fun Miyake had been and how happy she was that we had been able to go together; reading those words even now make me smile at her kindness.

After moving back to the States two years later, miserable and homesick for Japan, I would sit by myself and spend hours with my memories, my yearbooks and pictures from a time and place that seemed to exist as if only in some strange dream. I told people about my time in Japan and at ASIJ, including the trip to Miyake, with pride.

Almost 30 years later, I am horrified to learn that my friend can no longer sleep. She’s constantly exhausted and when she does sleep, she is plagued with nightmares all night long. I see pictures of this beautiful woman with her young daughter, and as a mother myself and knowing what I do, it almost hurts to see the love and protectiveness she has for her child.

Although I honestly cannot say what I feel when I look back at my Miyake photos and mementos, it’s hard to look at my innocent 11- and 12-year-old friends with Moyer, knowing now that only a few weeks later (if not even that week), he would hurt them. Pride, unfortunately, does not come to mind a lot lately, except when I think about the strength of the survivors and the alumni and faculty who have stepped up and given their time and words much more eloquent than mine to help bring closure to the legacy of abuse.

Please know that it’s not my intention with this letter to hurt ASIJ or its current students and faculty in any way. Quite the opposite: I want to help protect our community from hurt, making sure we have all the facts, that nothing is left to hearsay, gossip or otherwise.

We need to know the facts, because how can any of us move forward without them? How can we, in good conscience, support the reputation of our school? Also, why have our sisters been ignored for so long, threatened even with expulsion as children when they spoke up? Moreover, why is this even the burden of the survivors? They were hurt by those entrusted by their parents to educate and protect them.

We need the facts to prevent this from happening at ASIJ ever again. Finally, ASIJ as a school and a community needs these facts to stay strong and not crumble.

I would like to thank all the hard work of the survivors, the alumni, faculty and administrators who worked to get this third-party investigation up and running. I am proud of my ASIJ community for standing up and supporting our sisters.

CHRISTINA HAMILTON
ASIJ Class of 1991 alumna

Time doesn’t always heal

Justice delayed is justice denied. When a young child has been victimized, sexually assaulted by a sociopathic pedophile, the psychological and emotional healing process can take a lifetime. Courtroom justice can only alleviate the pain and humiliation suffered by the victim to a slight degree. How does the victim begin to recover his or her childhood innocence once it has been viciously stripped away by a predatory adult?

They say that time heals, but this is not always the case. And a courtroom cross-examination can be almost as traumatic as the crime itself. The victim must relive the humiliation all over again in front of a jury. The American School in Japan was criminally negligent in its long-term relationship with suspected serial pedophile Jack Moyer, at one time a noted marine biologist and celebrated Japanologist. Moyer should be alive today so that his many victims could confront him in a court of law. He needs to understand just how badly he injured these individuals who placed their trust in him long ago when they were innocent schoolchildren.

Despite its best investigative efforts, the law firm of Ropes & Gray [which is conducting an investigation into Moyer's alleged sexual abuse] will never be able to uncover the full extent of Moyer’s pedophilic criminality. But hopefully it will ascertain just how negligent ASIJ was over the past 40 years!

Why indeed did the administrators at this world-famous international school fail to confront Moyer during his decades-long tenure at the school? Why the continued obfuscation or attempts at a cover-up despite repeated complaints from both students and parents about Moyer’s suspected criminal behavior since the late 1960s? Cultural/moral relativism?

Since pedophilia is so rampant in Japan, was Moyer’s behavior seen as somewhat excusable? Because he went “native”? Was it institutional blindness, as was often the case when archbishops had to deal with pedophile priests in the not-always-so-Holy Roman Catholic Church? Since 1945 (and before) many Americans have assumed a very “holier than thou” attitude towards Japanese and other Asian peoples. Ah yes, that American exceptionalism again.

I agree with [abuse victim] Janet Simmons: This investigation is tragically belated. ASIJ is looking more and more like one of those parochial Catholic schools in Boston where so many pedophile priests were arrested in recent years.

Moyer will never serve time in an American prison, where he’d soon learn what it’s like to be sexually victimized, though he himself would be no innocent. Ropes & Gray, based in Boston, must be all too familiar with the papal pedophile legal predicament. Moyer will never face the judgement of a trial judge, but if ASIJ covered up his criminality, it will face retribution in the civil courts and in the wider court of public opinion.

The PR firm of Sard Verbinnen & Co. is preparing to face the fallout of a storm of lawsuits from Moyer’s victims. Small wonder this firm had no comment to make. Not to worry: ASIJ has a considerable financial endowment! It’s the most expensive international school in Asia. Tuition is about $40,000 per year! However, much of the endowment comes from decades of wise investment decisions. Pity the school didn’t focus more on the welfare of its students and less on its bottom line.

When I was a young child, my family moved to London, England. On my 13th birthday my mother gave me permission to wander around that vast city of history, mystery and wonder all by myself. I felt oh so grown up that day until . . . it proved to be the most terrible day of my childhood. I was abducted. I was released about 10 hours later. The police were never able to apprehend the British “gentleman” who kidnapped me.

When I write that I am able to empathize with Moyer’s many victims, believe me.

ROBERT McKINNEY
Otaru, Hokkaido

Silence in the Japanese press

I wonder if the author has any insight into why this story has not been taken up by the Japanese media (at least as far as I have been able to determine). It seems like a story that the shūkanshi [weekly magazines] would devour, if not the major outlets — not that I enjoy my alma mater’s dirty laundry being aired out, but I feel that the general community needs to know.

JOE KUROSU, M.D.

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp