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Japanese women more likely to keep domestic abuse secret than EU peers: survey

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Staff Writer

When Japanese women are physically or sexually abused by their partners, they tend to keep quiet and refrain from reporting the violence to the police.

But, in Europe, women who go through the same demeaning experience are more inclined to let the authorities know, according to a survey compiled by professors at Ryukoku University in Kyoto.

Out of 2,448 randomly picked women between the ages of 18 and 75 who were contacted between last October and December in the Kinki region, 741 agreed to take part in face-to-face interviews with female researchers.

Released Thursday, the survey results underscore a culture in which it remains taboo for victims of domestic violence to come forward. Many Japanese see it as an act that will bring shame upon their families.

The survey said 53 of the respondents in Japan were physically or sexually abused by partners including husbands or boyfriends. But none reported the incidents to the police, compared with 14 percent of victims who reported to police in the EU.

“The 53 respondents may look too small (to come to any conclusion). Still, that none of them reported the abuse received was surprising to me,” Ryukoku University professor Masahiro Tsushima told The Japan Times.

“People tend to refrain from reporting domestic abuse to the police. It means that such physical and sexual violence by family members is often hidden,” he said.

In the survey, which also covered violence by non-partners, one in six respondents, or 17 percent, admitted to being assaulted by someone — a partner or someone else — in the past. This is smaller than the 33 percent who responded to the same survey in the European Union’s 28 member states in 2012.

The ratio of violence reported from non-partners was about the same among Japanese and EU women, at 12 and 13 percent, respectively.

“It has something to do with our culture as well as the lack of understanding among victims that domestic abuse actually is a crime,” the report said.

In the survey, some victims said they were the ones to blame, Tsushima said. Some also said they thought the violence was not serious enough to be reported to the police, even when they were physically injured.

Tsushima said they are scheduled to release a more detailed report sometime this fall.

“I believe it’s important for neighbors or people around them to call the police or support groups when they suspect violence, as those victims often find it difficult to seek help,” Tsushima said.