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Nagasaki city ordered to pay reporter over sexual assault by official

Supporters of a female reporter, a plaintiff in a sexual assault case involving a Nagasaki city official, hold a sign calling for the city government to apologize, prior to a court ruling in Nagasaki on May 30, 2022. (Kyodo)

NAGASAKI (Kyodo) -- The Nagasaki city government was ordered by a court Monday to pay around 19.75 million yen ($155,000) in compensation to a female journalist who was sexually assaulted by a male senior official in 2007 and suffered additional harm as a result of falsehoods spread by another official.

    The plaintiff's side had demanded that the southwestern Japan city pay around 74 million yen in the suit filed at the Nagasaki District Court in 2019, arguing the now-deceased official misused his position and exercised authority to assault the reporter, and the city also failed to prevent additional harm.

    The reporter was sexually assaulted by the official, who was then the head of the city's atomic bomb survivors' department, in July 2007 while conducting an interview for the Aug. 9 anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki during World War II, according to the ruling.

    She was later diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, hospitalized and forced to take a leave of absence. Her PTSD was aggravated by false rumors about her that were spread by another male official, the ruling said.

    The reporter asked that her name not be made public and that the names of the two officials be withheld to protect her privacy.

    Those rumors started after the woman's attacker died in an apparent suicide in November 2007 following an internal probe into the case conducted by the city.

    Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said that the ruling did not take into account some of the city's claim and that it will consider its response after looking closely into the judgment.

    The compensation included 5 million yen for mental anguish and more than 10 million yen for earnings lost due to the leave of absence. The court did not, however, grant the plaintiff's request for the city to place an apology in the city's public relations brochure.

    The department head had "shown a willingness to be interviewed, asked her to meet and committed sexual violence. The incident was therefore related to his official capacity," Presiding Judge Hiroyoshi Amakawa said.

    Regarding the spreading of falsehoods by the other official, the judge said, "It was evident that there was disinformation. The city had a responsibility to warn and ensure that there would be no secondary victimization."

    The woman was slammed on social media to the extent that some questioned who the real victim was during a city council meeting in July 2019, after she filed the lawsuit.

    "I hope that this will be a light of hope" for working women, the reporter said at a press conference after the ruling.

    "It has been clearly proven that responsibility for violence lies on the side of those who wield that violence," she added.

    She added that in the aftermath of the assault, she often had difficulty breathing and on occasion that caused her to collapse.

    The plaintiff earlier described the city government's response as based on "deep-rooted sexism" and that she sued 12 years after the assault, prompted by the city "repeatedly responding insincerely" and in an "ad-hoc" manner toward her.

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