Australia rape victim sues over Japan police conduct
04 Dec 2007 10:16:27 GMT
TOKYO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - An Australian woman who sued Japanese authorities for alleged police mistreatment after she was raped by a U.S. military serviceman lost her case on Tuesday, but said she would fight on in a higher court.
The Australian woman in her 40s, who asked not to be identified, sought damages from the Kanagawa prefectural government near Tokyo, saying its police force held her for more than 10 hours after she was raped in 2002. During that time, the woman said she was denied medical attention despite having cuts and bruises on her legs and chest, was given no food or water and was forced to accompany police officers to the crime scene to show them what happened.
The woman was eventually taken to hospital, but wasn't given any new underwear after handing over her own as evidence of the crime, she said.
The Tokyo District Court said it could not recognise that the woman had been physically or mentally in need of urgent care from the police. It also said that while the woman had appeared to be in a state of confusion after the attack, it had not been obvious that she needed the police to accompany her to hospital.
"As if being sexually violated is not enough in Japan, I had to have broken bones to be able to go to a hospital," the woman, who lives in Tokyo, told reporters as she held back tears.
"If you could ask a rape victim if they would rather be raped or be murdered, I know the answer."
Officials from Kanagawa Prefecture and Kanagawa police were not available for comment.
Activists and lawyers say sentiment towards rape victims in Japan remains chilly in a society where many feel the women may have led the man on, that she is lying or that she could have fought back.
While legal changes have helped make it easier for rape victims to take cases to court, lawyers say many women opt not to, for fear of a humiliating police investigation that requires a victim to demonstrate how the rape happened at the crime scene.
"If this is the legal system's obligation of secondary damages (for rape victims), then it's almost impossible for the country to carry out its policy of stopping violence against women," said Mami Nakano, the Australian woman's lawyer, said of Tuesday's ruling.
The Tokyo District Court recognised in 2005 that the U.S. serviceman had raped the Australian woman, but he had already fled to the United States.
Some victims' support groups estimate that rape cases in Japan amounted to more than 10 times the National Police Agency's official figure of 1,948 last year. (Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; editing by Sophie Hardach)