Rape allegation casts harsh light on university club

by Mark Schreiber

Special To The Japan Times

Bright and vivacious young women are in great demand as TV announcers. For many in Japan, the stepping stone to a career in broadcast news has been the annual Miss Keio contest, held during the autumn festival at the nation’s most prestigious private university: Keio, in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

But earlier this month, the pageant’s organizer, the 92-year-old Keio Advertisement Society, posted the following announcement on its website: “This year’s Miss Keio contest activities … have been cancelled as a result of punitive measures by the university, due to the occurrence of an unfortunate incident that betrayed everyone’s expectations. As a group, we have reflected deeply upon this. … We extend our apologies to the six finalists. We are truly sorry.”

On Oct. 4, Keio University ordered the Advertisement Society to disband, following revelations of its members’ alleged involvement in the gang rape of a female student in early September.

The victim’s indignant mother spoke with a reporter from Shukan Shincho (Oct. 20) about the ordeal: “The next day around 8 p.m. my daughter was taken to a hospital by ambulance. She looked devastated, and I didn’t hear what had happened until I’d paid the hospital charges. I couldn’t believe what she told me.”

Not only was the girl’s mother infuriated at learning of the alleged rape, she also felt betrayed by the university’s apparent attempt to subsequently play down the incident.

“My daughter belongs to several circles and hadn’t been very active in the Advertisement Society,” the mother continued. “Around the end of August, one of the members asked her to go to their beach retreat in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture, to help clean up the house. Because she hadn’t been involved with the circle up to that point, I suspect (the attack) had been their original intention all along.”

The victim, whose name was not reported, told Shukan Shincho she arrived at the beach house around 6 p.m. on Sept. 2. It was only then that she realized she was the sole female present.

“We finished supper around 7:30,” the victim was quoted as saying. “Then one of them said, ‘Let’s go upstairs for a drink.’ It was my first time to go to this kind of retreat, and I went along, thinking this was the custom.”

Upstairs, the students sat around a low table in the narrow, six-mat tatami room, and she was served a shot glass filled with tequila.

“It was really strong and I didn’t want to drink it,” she relates. “Around 8:30 I was asked to go downstairs and bring them a deck of cards. When I returned and saw the expressions on their faces, I sensed they were up to something.”

A sixth member of the circle arrived and had a drink, but went back downstairs and went to sleep, leaving her upstairs with five members. Then the “drinking game” began. When she resisted, she was physically forced to down the drink. She was woozy, but still conscious, when she saw two of the members begin to undress in front of her, according to Shukan Shincho.

Yukan Fuji (Oct. 20) asked Hisashi Sonoda, professor at the Konan University Graduate School of Law in Kobe, what might be in store for the alleged offenders.

“I can only comment based on what I’ve seen in the media, but according to the criminal code, this would appear to be a case of gang rape, compounded as a sexual assault against a person who is intoxicated, asleep or otherwise unable to consent or resist,” said Sonoda.

The current law was revised in reaction to the rapes of between three and 12 women (the actual number was never determined) in 2003 by members of a now-defunct group at Waseda University that organized music events at nightclubs, where they would choose their victims. The revised law provides for penalties more severe than ordinary rape, and offenders risk a prison term of between four to 20 years.

Any possibility of an out-of-court settlement now appears moot. Shukan Jitsuwa (Nov. 3) reported that on Oct. 16 the young woman filed a formal complaint with the Kanagawa Prefectural Police, setting the stage for criminal prosecution.

If the case goes to trial, one of the most damning pieces of evidence is likely to be video images that the students recorded using a cellphone camera.

The images reportedly show club members humiliating and sexually abusing their unconscious victim.

In May a student at the University of Tokyo made headlines following his arrest on charges of public indecency, when he doled out similarly sadistic abuse on a 21-year-old co-ed.

What is it with these elite students, wonders Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 20), that brings out such bestial behavior?

Psychiatrist and author Joji Suzuki tells the tabloid that many such young men grow up feeling privileged, with the mistaken attitude that they can get away with almost anything.

“Young men who were constantly badgered to study by their mothers when they were children have the potential of getting carried away,” explained Suzuki. “They sublimate their anger and resentment against their mothers by taking it out on other women.”

An alumnus of Keio’s Advertising Society told Sunday Mainichi (Oct. 30), “As much as I loved belonging to that group, I won’t stand for that kind of coercive drinking. So I agree with the decision to shut it down; it’s what we should expect from Keio University. And disbanding the group won’t be the end of it. I’m really angry that the university still hasn’t issued a public statement on the matter.”