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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Violent Male Stalkers in Japan: A Social Crisis

     In the United States, the act of stalking constitutes a crime in every state, and if committed interstate, can also be prosecuted as a federal offense. Criminal stalking is generally defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact or any course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause fear in a reasonable person. America, with about three million reported cases a year, is the stalking capital of the world. Two-thirds of these cases involve female victims stalked by ex-boyfriends, former spouses, co-workers, or social acquaintances. While men are stalked, this is primarily a crime against women.

     A high percentage of stalkers are compulsive, paranoid types motivated by anger and revenge. While the FBI doesn't keep track of how many women are murdered by these sociopaths, it's safe to estimate that every year stalkers kill more than 100 women. Because all stalkers are potentially dangerous, this is an extremely serious crime, a fact now recognized by the American law enforcement community.

     As a pattern of deviant behavior, stalking in Japan first attracted national attention in 1998 when a famous kabuki actor named Ennosuke Ichikawa won a restraining order against an overzealous fan. The stalker, however, was not charged with a crime. (In America, stalking is a fact of celebrity life.)

     In the spring of 1999, Shiori Ino, after breaking up with her boyfriend, filed a harassment case against him with the Saitama police in Ageo. Kazuhito Komatsu, the subject of the complaint, his brother, and two of their friends had been following and heckling Ino. They had also been distributing lewd and defamatory flyers about her. After the police refused to investigate Ino's allegations, she filed a formal internal affairs complain charging these officers with police negligence. (Later, through the use of falsified documents, the Saitama police tried to deny that Ino had filed a complaint against her ex-boyfriend.)

     On October 6, 1999, Kazuhito Komatsu, in broad daylight, stabbed Shiori Ino to death outside a train station in Saitama Prefecture. The police, under intense public criticism for ignoring Ino's case, argued that since stalking was not a crime in Japan, there was nothing they could have done to prevent the murder. (Stalking, at the time, was a crime in just one of Japan's 47 prefectural governments.) Komatsu took his own life several months after the murder. Shiori Ino's parents filed a civil lawsuit charging the Saitama officers with police negligence and intentional wrongdoing. (In 2003, the court awarded the family 5.5 million yen.)

     In 2000, 17-year-old Maki Otake broke up with her boyfriend who refused to leave her alone. In April of that year, after a week of stalking Otake, the ex-boyfriend stabbed her 34 times as she parked her bicycle outside her school. The case drew the attention of the national media and put pressure on Japan's politicians and law enforcement agencies to recognize stalking as a serious crime against women. Otake's stalker was later convicted of murder. By 2000, five of Japan's prefectural governments had enacted anti-stalking laws.

     In November 2000, in reaction to the Shiori Ino and Maki Otake murder cases, legislators in Japan's central government passed a law making stalking a national crime. Notwithstanding this new law, the police in the country were reluctant to treat stalking as a serious criminal offense. In many jurisdictions, officers, unwilling to get involved in what they considered trivial personal disputes, refused to investigate stalking complaints.

     In 2010, 38-year-old Eto Ozutsumi began sending 30-year-old Rie Miyoski threatening emails. He repeatedly sent her messages that read: "I am definitely going to kill you." Over a period of months, Ozutsumi sent Miyoski more than a thousand unwanted emails. The Tokyo couple hadn't dated since 2006. Miyoshi filed a complaint with the police, and in early 2011, married another man and moved with him to Zushi in the Kanagawa Prefecture. Her stalker did not know her married name, or where she lived. She changed her email address, and the stalking finally stopped.

     In June 2011, when the police arrested Ozutsumi on charges of stalking, an officer, in reading out loud from the arrest warrant, revealed the victim's married name and her new address. After Ozutsumi pleaded guilty to the stalking charge, the judge sentenced him to probation. About a year later, this man showed up at his former stalking victim's apartment in Zushi and stabbed her to death.

     In the wake of the Rie Miyoski murder, women's rights advocates and others in Japan were outraged over this official indifference to the crime of stalking and its victims. In Japan, police attitudes concerning crimes agains women have been slow to change,

     Between the years 2004 and 2014, reports of stalking in Japan increased ten-fold. Notwithstanding Japan's tough anti-stalking legislation passed in 2011, the problem of the violent male stalker continued to affect thousands of female victims, many of whom awere eventually murdered. According to recent reports, violent stalking in Japan has become a crime problem of epidemic proportions.    

1 comment:

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