FUKUOKA – For Toiro Hoshioka, 30, burying emotions so deep she wouldn’t have to feel anything was once the only way to get through the painful memory of being raped by her father at a young age.
But decades later, the woman, known by the pseudonym Hoshioka, believes speaking publicly about her ordeal can help prevent similar cases from occurring.
“I want people to know what is actually happening” to some girls and what happened to me, she said.
When Hoshioka was a fifth-grader, her father began touching her body. This eventually escalated to sex.
While her father often beat his mother, speaking with Hoshioka would often put him in a good mood. Knowing this, she endured the abuse as a way of insulating her mother.
“If I tolerated it, I could protect my mother,” she recalled thinking at the time.
When she entered high school, the sexual abuse stopped. But by then, she was on the verge of a mental breakdown. Seeking someone to confide in, she began calling a domestic abuse hotline.
But this only steered her into a vicious circle. She became so addicted to the hotline that her monthly cellphone bill skyrocketed to ¥300,000. And to pay off the phone company, she began engaging in enjo kosai (compensated dating), which eventually led to her being forced into prostitution by the yakuza, she said.
But a reunion with her counselor from junior high school gave her an opportunity to change her life. The counselor contacted a support center for youngsters at the Fukuoka Prefectural Police, who helped her cut ties with the gangsters.
Things weren’t easy, but officials were there for her in her time of need, including repeated attempts at suicide.
“They helped fix my mind,” she said. At that time, it felt as if it “had been broken into a thousand pieces, like a glass cup smashed” on the floor.
Reflecting on her life and the abuse she endured, she came to the realization that the signs of trouble had been clear.
To avoid home life, she often was the first to arrive at school and the last to leave.
“If someone had intervened then, things might have been different,” she said. “Victims are sending out SOS signals unconsciously.”
It was this realization that prompted her to begin patrolling the streets of downtown Fukuoka, walking up to girls who were showing crisis signs — such as squatting down alone on roads and in parks. That way, she could hear the stories of distraught and victimized girls like herself.
Hoshioka has just quit her hostess job and is focusing more on speaking out about her experiences, including at a forum on child abuse.
“I used to fear what would happen to me in the next second or two,” Hoshioka said in a recent Facebook post. “But now I know that there is a future 10 and 20 years from now.”
Now she now has a dream — to open a cafe where victims of abuse can more freely share their experiences and help heal one another.
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