Japan: Reactions to alleged Okinawa rape

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:

また、米海兵隊員による性犯罪が発生しました。
『沖縄タイムズ』は号外を出し、比較的静かな本土との報道の差が気になります。
だいたい「少女暴行」とありますが、はっきり言って「未成年者への強姦」(レイプ)でしょう。
それを「暴行」と、言葉を緩める意味が果たしてあるのか?
「援助交際」とか「婦女暴行」とか、性犯罪用語を曖昧にする日本の報道は、被害者への配慮というよりも、加害者への贖罪意識の軽減につながってしまっているようです。
こうした性犯罪は、絶対許さないという姿勢で報じるように変えていくべきでしょう。

Another sex crime by a US Marine.
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”:

沖縄の米兵による中学生暴行事件
よく聞いたら
バイクに乗せて家まで送ってあげると言われて
バイクに乗ってしまったのが原因だとか
バカか・・・・
そんなの、暴行してくださいとお願いしてるようなもんよ
軽薄な行動が呼んだ事件としか言いようがない
この女の子の軽薄さに腹が立つ

The rape of the junior high-school student by American soldier in Okinawa.
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.
So stupid…
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:

沖縄県で、またもや米兵による強姦事件が発生!
女子中学生を乗用車に乗せ、車内で暴行をしたという。こういう事件を見ると、結果的には米兵の罪が問われるのだが、そこに至る経緯も気になる。決して、暴行に及んだ米兵をかばうつもりはない。
だけど、被害にあった女子学生は、米兵から声をかけられ、その誘いを受けたことで、こうした事件を招いている。それが知り合いであれば事情が変わったのかもしれないが、見知らぬ人からの誘いを受ける方にも問題があるように思えてならない。
沖縄という土地柄、米兵による強姦事件は後を絶たない。
だからこそ、その土地の女性はもっと用心すべきだ!それにもまして、親はもっと子供に責任を持つべきではないか?
過去に起こった事件から学び、もう少し責任ある行動を取ってもらいたい。
加害者がどんな裁きを受けようとも、被害者の傷跡は消すことが出来ないから

In Okinawa Prefecture, there was another incident of rape by American military!
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.

50 comments

  • Tessy

    Hi Maki,
    I know that. But if you are referring to me all I can say is that “intent” in this case NEEDS to be examined! Actually the way American courts work “intent” is almost everything. I think it’s quite clear that his intent was not rape.

    I also think every Japanese girl older than 16 or 15 who hangs around with gaijin or who hangs out in the gaijin areas knows exactly what the score is. In fact the vast majority of them are there for boy-hunting and making sex-friends. The military has been there for about 60 years now. The past 15 years have been the same as it is now for the most part. Although I will say that 20 and 30 years ago it was very very different and Americans acted with MUCH more respect!

  • Exodus

    No offense to us military, but what are you supposed to do when they are in the army and they can’t go the hooker places as they could back in US or in Japan. Obviously any rape is against the law regardless of what the situation is and who rapes who. Whats important is that nobody is gonna change anything based on who rapes who. This is not important and these kind of stuff never gets in the way politically, or very little effect. You can say that the girl want to be raped or idiot, but Quote “Even more than that, shouldn’t parents take more responsibility for their children?” I don’t know what’s the situation there cause I am not from that part of the world. But what’s parents supposed to do when there is rapist all over the neighborhood. All of the above holds personal opinions and has no direct attacks on anyone.

  • walkerny

    The marine was wrong and should be punished, thank God it doesn’t seem to have been rape.

    That being said, the hue and cry from the Japanese public every 8 or 10 years when one of hundreds of thousands of GI’s commits a crime is ridiculous. As if young Japanese men never commit these crimes! I think we should bring ALL of our military home and let them live and shop from US taxpaying businesses. THEN you will hear some REAL whining from Okinawans.

    As for Japanese schoolgirls, it is the Japanese culture itself that sexualizes schoolgirls in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else. It borders on a fetish.

  • Well, Hadnott has been released without charge this evening after the girl’s parents have withdrawn any criminal charges.

    Have they been paid compensation or was there no case at all?

  • Rachel

    Walkerny,

    I have to agree with what you said. THis is becoming extremely irrating. Going on 12th day of restriction it is really starting to irratate me. We obviously know now that this was NOT A CASE OF RAPE and the way the press publicized it automatically making it sound as if this guy was guilty I think made the out cry from the Okinawan community greater thus leading to such harsh restrictions for all the military on the island. We know now that obviously this girl has issues. Will there be any reprecussions for her!!

    I agree there will be bad people with bad intentions among every nationality. But when it is the Americans we are made out to be so bad. We are all now restricted to the base with not enough facilities or services to accomodate service members plus their families let alone allowing nationals to still come onto the base and participate in base activities. THis seems quite un-fair to me. My children can’t even walk home from the bus or play outside in their yard (live off base) because of this. Going on base is awful now because it is so crowded every where.

    The American’s that come over here are sacrafising. Our service men and women are protecting not only the American Nations but lets be frank they are protecting the entire Pacific from other communist countries in the area that are potential threats. This not only benefits Americans but the Japanese as well. The families that come here are leaving their families and homes in the United States to come to a complete and foreign nation were there are biases.

    The same thing is going to happen when we leave here that happened in the Phillipines. The Phillipines wanted US Forces to leave so we did and now they wish we had stayed. When our troops leave this island the economy is going to plumet and I really think the Japanese government will regret the decision of US Forces leaving.

    It may seem that I have gone off on a rant but lets be fair about this. 99% of the American community here is good! They have come here tried to embrace the culture and be productive citizens, myself included. I have enjoyed by almost three years here. But frankly it is quite frustrating to hear the community crying that we are so bad when we have given so much and try to do so much.

  • Maki

    I’m relieved to hear it wasn’t rape but sad to know
    her family and she couldn’t stand for it all the way.
    I’ve been following this incident from both Japanese and English sources. So much misunderstanding from both sides.
    It’s easy to blame others and feel sorry for your situation.

    Tessy,
    The comment I made before was actually referring to the bit of the main topic below;
    …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]…

    Nothing to do with your previous comment. I don’t know the girl
    or the guy and don’t really get you point of mentioning the rest.

    While I understand you guys’ frustration by feeling misunderstood or generalized, I might be able to help you understand why Okinawans are so sensitive to this matter.

    Due to CHIIKYOUTEI(unfair laws/extraterritorial rights for the US force to hold alleged criminals since 1960) Okinawan police cannot arrest alleged criminals from military bases until they are prosecuted, it has often delayed or distracted police investigation.
    Especially in the past, lots of serious criminals and alledged criminals just took off and have never been punished. The worst Some repeated the same crimes in another country.
    Even now some cases are not to be judged by Japanese courts even though it’s happening in Japan!!!
    (Tessy, thanks for giving me a lesson on American courts by the way;)

    I believe Okinawa will be a better and healthier place once we
    break out of this dependent relationship with American force, and
    the same thing could be said for a lot of places in the world.

  • David

    Its is really disheartening that even after 60 years Uncle Sammers tend to think they are doing everyone else a favor by stopping the commies.

    Oh yes and lets remove Castro for not allowing good old Maccas and the other saturated fat in. If that happened how could Cubans afford to accomodate their ever increasingly large behinds in anything less that Hummers or bigger SUVs by working at AW or Starbucks?
    Thank goodness that hasnt happened yet. Otherwise they´d be listening to Britney, Eminancy, Timberlame and other white heartless noise.
    The American Bases there have lawns as far as the eye can see taking up the best beach locations and Homes that resemble upper class American suburbs. Many have beautiful golf courses where Okinawans not part of the base arent allowed. Where is the sacrifice?
    The Okinawan people have a culture and ways that 99 per cent of Westeners will never appreciate. They are easy going, simple people that through history mediated with their surrounding neighbors with ease (China, Thailand and other countries) unlike the Japanese. So when unemployable western youngsters come with attitude and ruin it for the rest of the higher ranked puppets then why should they be treated with just a slap on the wrist?
    Most criminals from the states have never been prosecuted while Japanese criminals rarely escape incarceration.
    Even after 60 years not one iota of common sense and cultural sensitivity exists. Maybe it was different in the day when Martin Luther King was assassinated but that is ancient history and double the age of the recruits. Today countless ¨Y¨ number plated cars on the island hoon around without consequences while Okinawans drive commenting ¨ah G-I desu¨ with a sigh or just under their breath. They just bite their tongue and accept it mostly.
    Imagine living in America with Japanese Marines doing what they liked all over the place and you had to put up with it as if they are untouchable? Countless families with victims just accepting the injustice.
    Most of the Americans arent there to protect Asia, they are there to protect unethical Capitalist Corporations and their so called Free Enterprises without knowing it. They are there because they want some idea of a working holiday abroad with the same surroundings and businesses as America (but safer naturally). Some are there because its better than working at Walmart. Some are there because its better than unemployment back home.
    Some are there because they are stationed there before they are sent to unsettle another country with civil war for the price of oil or American business interests.
    All in all the money made will secure a mortage back in ol U-S or A with a nice green lawn, swimming pool, 3.5 offspring, 4 SUVs and a Giant shopping complex for their only social outing and sense of culture.

    If 30 per cent of the land was returned from the unethical occupancy the Okinawan economy would blossom with tourism and community/local businesses. Why doesnt the occupancy go and pollute their own beautiful beaches with ammunition and other useless junk for the sake of protecting ¨your way of life¨?

    If America leaves please dont forget to take all that SPAM back home (just drop it off at Hawaii) so I and others can get back to eating real food and enjoying the simple life these people once had. That way Okinawan´s world famous longevity can return and their communal spirit thrive throughout the Island.

  • truth

    I no longer live in Okinawa but I did for three years and I feel for the young woman and military personnel. My opinion is this. You have thousands of service members packed on a small Island. Out of those thousands of people from different cultures one person is going to make a bad choice. Anything from drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car to persuading a 14 year old to take a ride with you when you are 38. This type of incident will happen again in my opinion. It happens everywhere but is that a reason for the locals to live in fear of U.S. Service members? I think not. NO! The Americans guys are not just a bunch of walking cases of potential rape. In addition to giving the local economy a huge boost and providing many public services, A great number of those servicemen and women have children on the island and would be just as angry if it happened to there own kid. I in no way support the conduct of the accused but I also know that a 14 year old is adult enough to gauge the intentions of a complete stranger when they seem so obvious. Maybe her curiosity for what it might be like to be with an American became too much of a reality. A simple “no thanks” could have saved alot of heartache. If it is Okinawan to teach “trust” then maybe it’s time to change that teaching to something like, “think it over”. One the other hand, Americans are constantly under the microscope when serving overseas. They should keep that in mind while they go about there daily lives. What you do today can be headlines tomorrow. I loved Okinawa and made many great friends there but I grew sick of having to suffer for another persons screw up. I hope relations between the locals and military smooth out so that the Island can be enjoyable again.

  • You honestly believe the Okinawan economy would boom with local business? Is that why Koza Music City (think that’s the right name) had been a big flop as no mainland companies want to invest in it? And how about the military housing off-base that some people are paying upwards of $3,000 per month on: do you think Okinawans will rush to take over these properties with the average salaries they get?

    Most Okinawans realise that even though they may not love having the US military presence here, the economy would be in tatters here if they left.

  • David

    Okinawans never had an issue with the economy before the war. They lived happily and long without the affluence you feel and I felt I needed to be happy. Its not all about the economy. Since you have asked you just have to look at the off base rental funds only going to the Landlord, if a few landlords get rich from rent then it doesnt affect the economy on a larger scale. With 90 per cent of things imported and funds going back to the US is clearly not a good economy. It happens all over the world where the US have landed. The occupied countries grow sugar cane and other useless crops that never feed the people but are sold for peanuts. Generally the US imposed economy is detrimental for Okinawa and just a poor facade. There are no laws that will stop the way the military treats their land including their oceans and how it will return it. This is where Okinawans will lose the most. Their land is ruined with the useless war games.
    Also Okinawans shouldnt have to change their easy going nature because some GIs are frustated. Americans there should respect their way of life as they are visitors.
    No one said every western man is a rapist, there are plenty of prostitutes in Okinawa and if disciplined men need to mess around they are available to them.

    Its not the number of crimes but the fact that the Military is supposed to represent Discipline, Justice and the upper most level of conduct. The power and freedom they possess is scary and painful for many Okinawans especially when crimes go unpunished.

    As for the lass that thinks that at the Bases you have such good festivals. I cant think of anything more Tacky than watching a display of American and Japanese Taxpayers money as killing machines, wasting expensive fossil fuels while the crowd porks on shredded spam filled pizzas and blurts out ¨wow¨ ¨cool¨ with Billy Ray Cyrus blaring away in the background.
    There is more soul, life, integrity and taste buds exercised in the local Okinawans festivals.

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