The news last week that U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tyrone Hadnott had allegedly raped a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Okinawa sparked various degrees of condemnation from local citizens, politicians, the government and bloggers [ja], reigniting anger at the continued presence of American military bases in Japan's southernmost prefecture. While different in many ways from the current case, a famous gang rape by U.S. military personnel in 1995 remains fresh in the minds of many Okinawans, adding to feelings of frustration.
In describing cases of rape in Japan such as this one, media tend to avoid the word “rape” (強姦) in favor of the less direct expression “violence” (暴行). Freelance journalist and blogger Uesugi Takashi comments on this use of language, and on differences between local and national media in their coverage of the case:
I sense the difference between the “Okinawa Times”, which put out an extra edition, and the relatively quiet mainland reporting on this.
[Mainland reporting] refers to it as something like an “violence against a young woman” (少女暴行), but speaking frankly, this is “rape of a minor” (未成年者への強姦).
Is there even any point in softening these words and referring to it as “violence” (暴行)?
In using terminology like “compensated dating” and “violence against young women” for sex crimes, Japanese reporting, more than considering the victim, tends to reduce the sense of atonement of the assailant.
There should be a change in attitude to one that absolutely does not put up with this kind of sex crime.
While there was considerable hostility voiced at the U.S. military presence, on Internet bulletin boards the incident also attracted heavy criticism targeted at the high-school girl herself [ja] for (allegedly) not being careful enough and allowing this incident to happen. One blogger, for example, wrote of the girl's “frivolousness”:
If you listen carefully:
She was asked if she would like a lift home by motorbike,
And she actually got on the bike, that was the cause.
That kind of thing, it's just like asking: assault me please.
No way to describe this but as frivolous actions just asking for something to happen.
This girl's frivolousness really makes me angry.
Blogger VcCS expressed a similar sentiment:
A girl in junior high school got into a car, and was assaulted inside. The American military should ultimately be held responsible for this crime, but I also wonder about the process that led up to it.
I absolutely do not want to defend the American soldier who called her [into the car].
But the high school girl who was victimized, the American soldier called out to her, and she accepted this invitation, so she asked for this incident [to happen]. It would be different if this was an acquaintance of hers, but I cannot help feeling that there is a problem with a person who accepts an invitation from someone they don't even know.
In the local character of Okinawa [*], these cases of rape by American military personnel are never-ending.
And that's exactly why girls in those places should be more careful! Even more than that, shouldn't parents take more responsibility for their children?
I want them to learn from past incidents and act a little more responsibility.
Because however the assailant ends up being charged, there is no way to erase the victims scars!
[*] Referring to the fact that Okinawa has many U.S. army bases.
For more about this story, see also this English-language post and a long set of comments responding to it.