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'Honey trap' claims stir fears after indecent assault, harassment cases

Demonstrators decry sexual harassment by former Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda, in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on April 28, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Suggestions of "honey trapping" on the heels of two recent high-profile indecent assault and sexual harassment cases have provided fuel to those bashing the victims, raising fears they will suffer secondary damage.

The cases involve Tatsuya Yamaguchi of the all-male pop group Tokio, and former Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda, respectively. A number of celebrities recently blamed the high school girl who visited Yamaguchi's home, where she was allegedly kissed by the 46-year-old Tokio member against her will. The victim was visiting Yamaguchi's condominium along with a fellow high school girl after they were called in by him.

After TV star Dewi Sukarno slammed the victim in her blog post and singer Kiyoshi Nakajo defended Yamaguchi during a TV show, they were met with online criticism. However, their comments have also sparked fierce bashing against the victim, with some online posts insisting that the high school girl's real aim was money and breaking Tokio apart.

In Fukuda's case, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso openly referred to the opinion that the former vice finance minister "was set up," suggesting the possibility that the TV Asahi reporter -- who was allegedly sexually harassed by Fukuda -- acted as a "honey trap." Such a theory has been commonly raised by victim bashers in Japan.

Kazue Shigematsu, deputy secretary-general of CAP Center Japan, a nonprofit group involved in human rights education at schools, said about Yamaguchi's case, "There was this clear imbalance of power between the mature man in his 40s and the high school girl. To press the responsibility on the girl would result in nothing less than secondary damage. If such bashing drives women to develop a sense of guilt and find it hard to open up about their damage, it would delay their recovery."

Shigematsu also commented about child victims of sexual violence, saying, "It would be desirable for children to be able to speak out and connect with others by sharing their experiences and reassuring other victims that they are not alone, but the way it stands now appears that children are affected by victim bashing in adult society and are split up."

Toshiyuki Tanaka, associate professor in sociology at Taisho University, points out: "The honey trap theory is an excuse for protecting men's interests in a male-dominated society by degrading women saying they are getting in men's way."

He continues, "In Japan, the gravity of sexual violence and its secondary damage is not taught in sex education classes at school, and society is immature in that it lacks fundamental discussion on how to protect victims and hold aggressors responsible."

Machiko Osawa, professor at Japan Women's University who specializes in labor economics, commented, "Japan has seen this tacit consensus formation where it is considered a matter of course for women to be patient and defend themselves when it comes to issues involving man-woman relationships. However, the times are changing, with a number of women openly speaking out about their suffering even in the face of verbal abuse."

On April 28, the first day of the "Golden Week" holiday period, throngs of youngsters joined a rally decrying sexual harassment by Fukuda in front of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, raising placards bearing such messages as "I will not be silenced."

(Japanese original by Haruka Udagawa, Satoko Nakagawa and Kasane Nakamura, General Digital News Center)

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