The number of reported stalking cases rose 8.2 percent last year to a total of 22,823, an increase for the third consecutive year, according to the National Police Agency. That means on average over 60 Japanese women are being stalked every day. Many of those women — stalking victims are 90 percent women — will suffer physical or sexual violence, besides suffering the intimidation and fear stalkers intend to implant.
The police have taken more action against stalkers than in the past, but much more action is still needed. The police said they issued nearly 30 percent more warnings last year, and issued 45 percent more orders to cease stalking. The number of cases referred to prosecutors reached an all-time high of 2,473, a figure that is only 10 percent of the total number of cases reported to the police.
Because stalking cases can quickly escalate, more prosecutions would help stop the worst cases. Among those cases handled by prosecutors were five murder and nine attempted murder cases, 465 blackmail attempts and 309 break-ins.
Stalking in Japan, even more than in other countries, is a crime predominantly against women.
Surveys in America have found that nearly one in 12 women and one in 45 men are stalked at least once in their lifetime. Comparable figures are not yet available in Japan, but they should be. Knowing the extent of the problem will help with better solutions. Because over half of stalkers are victims’ former, or current, partners, victims have to get over the shame of reporting someone they know, or once knew, to the police.
Stalking is a crime that seeks to control, intimidate and frighten the victim, almost always a former partner. The clearest definition of stalking includes any conduct that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid, including online stalking or threatening email.
Furthermore, stalking is almost always a series of acts, not single incidents, so that the police need to be aware and vigilant over a period of time.
Clearly more people are consulting the police about the problem than in the past, and more action is being taken. However, to protect victims, the overwhelming majority of whom are women, it is important to understand that stalking is in most cases connected to domestic violence. The NPA report also noted that the number of recorded domestic violence cases in 2014 also increased by 20 percent to a total of 59,072.
In most cases, stalkers have already committed acts of domestic violence, physically or sexually assaulting the victim, often before the relationship ended. That should give the police and prosecutors more justification for swiftly handling stalking cases. It is important to ensure that women who have become stalking victims do not continue to live in fear and danger.
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