ASIJ sex abuse report is finally released, blames ‘cultural taboos’

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A “historical lack of formal policies” and “cultural taboos” allowed child sex abuse committed by former American School in Japan teacher Jack Moyer to go unchecked for decades, an independent legal team tasked with probing the pedophilia scandal concluded in a long-overdue report Monday.

Responding to the report, the ASIJ board of directors conveyed in a community letter emailed to alumni Monday their “sincere and heartfelt apology” to victims of Moyer’s abuse, renewing their vow to make “ASIJ a safe environment and a strong and united community.”

Factors such as a “historical lack of formal polices and protocols for responding to allegations of sexual abuse,” “a historical lack of awareness of issues pertaining to child sexual abuse generally” and “cultural norms that treated discussing sexual abuse as taboo” prevented the school from confronting Moyer and approaching law enforcement, the report said.

The report, which cited interviews and written submissions from more than 110 current and former ASIJ board members, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni, characterized Moyer’s transgressions as “powerful” and “deeply troubling.”

Accounts by survivors of his abuse paint an image of a “serial pedophile who victimized young girls in a systematic way,” the legal team said.

It also pointed out that Moyer’s wrongdoings ranged from “unwanted touching” such as foot rubs and back massages to “fondling of breasts and genitals” and “serial rape.” Moyer committed suicide in 2004.

The report’s disclosure also came after Stephanie Toppino, former chair of the ASIJ board of directors, was replaced in May by Brian Johnson amid mounting calls by alumni for a leadership shake-up. When contacted by The Japan Times Monday, Head of School Ed Ladd, however, declined to confirm whether Toppino’s resignation was related to the sex abuse scandal.

Monday’s release of the report, which contains the results of the yearlong independent investigation by Boston-based law firm Ropes & Gray into the details of Moyer’s misconduct as well as first-hand accounts by 18 identified victims of the abuse, was a much-anticipated development for alumni and victims.

ASIJ’s failure to follow through on its promise to publish the report by last fall has kept alumni and victims on tenterhooks.

Some initiated an online petition campaign while others sent letters to the former school administration earlier this year calling for a revamp of its opaque, snail-paced handling of the aftermath of the scandal, which broke in March of last year.

For ASIJ’s part, the Tokyo-based international school acknowledged in a landmark update sent to alumni earlier this month that it had continuously “rebuffed and ignored” attempts made by Moyer’s victims in the past to expose his malpractice and offered the first public apology since the scandal came to light. The school also stressed its ongoing commitment to reimburse all survivors for counseling costs.

Moyer, also a renowned marine biologist, was employed by ASIJ as a teacher from 1962 to 1984. Following the end of his teaching tenure at the school, he continued on as a consultant for ASIJ’s off-campus marine science programs until 2000.

Moyer reportedly launched what are called “ocean schools” in 1987 on the island of Miyake, 180 km southwest of Tokyo, working with Japanese schoolchildren until 2003 — a fact ASIJ alumni say suggests he may have abused Japanese pupils.

Given that Moyer’s abuse spanned decades and students hailed from all over the globe, victims and alumni say it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of victims.

In an estimate called by one survivor as “conservative,” The Japan Times has reported that during his employment at ASIJ from 1962 to 1984, Moyer is believed to have abused at least 32 young girls.