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Alleged rape victim faces mixed reactions to news conference about handling of case

Shiori is seen at a press conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward after filing her request to a committee for the inquest of prosecution, on May 29, 2017. (Mainichi)

A freelance journalist who claims to have been raped two years ago by former Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi is receiving both praise and criticism for holding a news conference about her case -- an unusual move as an alleged sexual assault survivor.

    According to the 28-year-old, she met with Yamaguchi in April 2015 for drinks to discuss her career. She reports having no memory from that time until she woke up naked in a hotel room with Yamaguchi on top of her. She filed a criminal complaint against Yamaguchi for "quasi rape," the term used in the Japanese Penal Code to describe committing an indecent act or intercourse with a victim unconscious or rendered unconscious and unable to resist. Police had an arrest warrant for Yamaguchi, but it was never executed. Although papers accusing him were sent to prosecutors, they decided to drop the charges against him in July 2016.

    Unsatisfied with the result, she filed for an investigation by a committee for the inquest of prosecution, a third-party judicial panel that decides if a case is prosecutable, and also held a news conference where she revealed her face and her first name -- Shiori -- and took questions from the media on May 29.

    During the press conference, Shiori stated, "I felt the need to convey just how terrifying rape is, and how serious the damage is to the life of the victim afterward." About her decision not to reveal her family name, she said she had wanted to reveal her full name but her family had opposed it.

    "I take issue with the notion that victims should be sad, weak and embarrassed by their situation," she explained. Shiori stated that when she went to the hospital for an examination hours after leaving the hotel, she received only emergency contraception. When she phoned an NPO that supports victims of sexual assault while she was unable to get up from bed, she was told that she needed to sit for an interview first. Even the police had asked her to make a private settlement out of court. "I was pained by just how unfavorably the law and society work against victims of sexual assault."

    The following day, while many people took to the internet to comment on her bravery and send words of encouragement, there was also wide-spread victim-shaming, alleging that she had led Yamaguchi on and accusing her of wearing inappropriate clothing that "was too low cut" at the press conference.

    In her comments to the press, Shiori also made her displeasure known about ongoing Diet deliberations on the so-called anti-conspiracy law, rather than taking enough time to discuss revision to the Penal Code that includes strengthening punishments for sex crimes. Because of her comments on Diet proceedings, Shiori's testimony effectively became an online political proxy war. On one side, she was called a fake who was planted by left-wing lawmakers to push their agenda. On the other, it was pointed out that Yamaguchi having authored books such as "Sori (Prime Minister)" and maintaining a close relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have played a part in him avoiding arrest.

    Not carrying out an arrest warrant issued by the court is indeed a rare occurrence, and Shiori explained that she was told by an investigator that "an order from above" prevented them from making the arrest. After that, she gathered her own evidence to make her case to the prosecution inquest committee.

    Yamaguchi has sent a statement regarding the case to the Mainichi Shimbun. The contents are as follows:

    I did nothing that goes against the law. That is why I was not indicted following an investigation by the police and public prosecutors that lasted over a year. Therefore, I am neither a suspect nor the accused. At the same time, the parties involved in a dismissed case still have an opportunity to file a complaint, and I will be handling (any complaints) in all sincerity as I have been doing.

    In order to respect the decisions and procedures by social systems such as the Committees for the Inquest of Prosecution, I do not respond to individual questions concerning this matter.

    In addition, the woman's argument that she stressed at the news conference and on other occasions was carefully reviewed during the investigation period by the police force and prosecutors. And as a result, the case was dropped.

    I will take firm action against news reports and comments that only feature one side of the parties involved in a case still under dispute and treat me as a criminal even though I am neither a suspect or the accused.

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