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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Opinion: It's Time

     Sadly, today's topic is not a fun one, but it is something that ever more needs addressing.

     Just recently I read about an alarming incident that had affected a fellow ALT who joined the JET program the same year as I did. I remember our conversations mostly from the plane to Tokyo, and inside the Keio Plaza Hotel where we had orientation for several days. We parted ways after that - as is the sad but true nature of the program - but I would still read the things she posted long after that. I was shocked and quite upset at what I last read.

     But rather than telling you myself, I'll let her do it:

      It was a disgusting event to say the least. I became filled with a kind of shame mixed with sadness at the audacity this guy had to approach a person he did not know and assault her in the way that he did. It's tragic for women - because this is the reality that they deal with - and it's shameful for men who must share associations with these kind of immoral people.

     After lunch we had a meeting in the staffroom today. Almost as if some omnipresent being were attempting to underline the issue at hand, the topic was sadly similar.

     One of our 3rd years (whose name I will omit here, naturally) was walking home from school just last night after club activities. A stranger in a car had approached this student and began talking. The initial conversation started off with school related things (which is already odd enough) and then, as suddenly as he came, drove off. The student in question proceeded to walk home. Mere moments later, the stranger had circled back and began his round of questions once more. I do not know what they discussed from this point, but what I do know is that at some point he moved from inside to outside his car. Again, the contents of their discussion was left out of what I was told but eventually he touched this student. I don't know where, and quite honestly I don't need to. The student was scared (obviously) and ran home. The parents were quickly informed about what happened and they in turned phoned the school. We don't know who this man is, or what he drove, so there might not be much that the police will be able to do, but I should hope that he is caught and dealt with accordingly.

     It was disturbing to see both events have such similar circumstances. The somewhat friendly and seemingly harmless initial banter followed shortly by a departure only to then be harassed a second time with twice the force. It's as if agreeing to a conversation with these people has somehow convinced them that they've also been granted some form of sexual permission. It's scary to think - and know - that these people most definitely exist.

     There is a larger issue here though. I've never subscribed to the logical fallacy known as "victim-blaming," because it is as ludicrous as it sounds. When I think of these ordeals, my gut reaction is to tell women to simply ignore advances by men they don't know. That's wrong though, and here's why: That's still victim-blaming. The implication of saying that is akin to telling the victim that they need to more vigilant about how they avoid people who want to cause them harm. This is not the world I want my friends to live in. It's not the world I want to tell my daughters (should I have them) they will have to be aware of. It's not the way I want people to think about this issue because it does not inherently reprimand amoral behavior.

     The only way to deal with this is head-on. Women shouldn't have to change how they live. Out of my own nature I would always advise everyone to be careful no matter who you are, but that is not to say that the onus is solely on women. Quite the contrary, the responsibility lies within society to ostracize, condemn, and in all other ways punish this filthy behavior. And since we are society (for better or worse) that places agency ever so delicately in our hands.

     All of which is to say: We can do better than this. So let's do that.

For anyone who has dealt with this kind of assault, harassment (in all forms), or violence, you have my deepest sympathies. I can't begin to imagine how frightening your world must be. 



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