Japan’s crime victims and survivors are often traumatized by insensitive police questioning and medical examinations, panelists said Monday during Tokyo’s first official symposium for crime victims.
“I am struck by how we protect to an almost extreme degree the rights and privacy of perpetrators, while the rights of victims are ignored,” said Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
Ishihara spoke at the opening of the symposium, which was held in the municipal government building in Shinjuku and was sponsored by the Tokyo Metropolitan government and Metropolitan police.
Police often subject victims to lasting psychological trauma by asking questions that assign blame to the victim, said Akira Yamagami, who heads the Counseling Service for Victim Assistance, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.
“‘Why were you there? Why didn’t you lock the door?’ police ask, and these remarks hurt victims even more,” he said before an audience of about 540 law enforcement officials and Tokyo residents.
Victims also have few places to turn because of the limited range of support groups in Japan, which often offer little more than 24-hour hotline services and counseling upon request, he said.
Yamagami pointed to organized efforts by police and private organizations in the United States that offer crime victims and survivors everyday care until they are back on their feet. He called for public funds and organizations to help victims deal with police and the media, fill out insurance forms, arrange funeral services, and clean up after a scene of crime.
Trauma can range from constant mental replays of a tragedy to conscious or unconscious repression of the memory of a tragedy, he said.
Medical institutions must also be sensitive, panelists said.
“It is difficult for gynecologists, 80-some percent of whom are men, to refrain from making comments that pass judgment and psychologically wound victims of sex crimes,” said Shizuko Sasaki, director general of Matsushima Hospital for Women in Edogawa Ward. “There are so many myths that go along with sex crimes.”
She also said that there is an urgent need for each medical institution to have at least two nurses who specialize in counseling and caring for victims of sex crimes.
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