By Johann Fleuri
INTERVIEW – Sachi Nakajima is the Founding Director of the Japan-based NPO Resilience, which supports women affected by sexual or domestic violence. Resilience also acts in juvenile prisons throughout Japan to meet sexual assaults perpetrators in order to offer them therapy treatments.
Can you explain to Voice Up Japan readers the missions of NPO Resilience and how and when it started?
Resilience came about because several women, including myself, felt the need to organize ourselves so that we could do more for society as an organization. We came together in 2003 and have been working together for the last sixteen years. We offer classes to women who have been hurt or are hurting, here in Kanto area (four locations) and will start another one in Osaka this fall. We also conduct about 200 presentations/workshops/trainings across Japan. I am a survivor of violence myself. It happened when I was much younger. I did not become an advocate until my thirties. But I knew that someday I would take part in advocating for the survivors of violence.
What is domestic violence’s situation within Japan?
I would say that domestic violence is pervasive in Japan. Statistics rely on “reported” cases, meaning it cannot truly capture the whole picture. Having said that, there were over 77 000 calls made for domestic violence to the police in 2018. These numbers have been increasing every year for the past fifteen years. Since domestic violence is usually a gender based violence, gender plays a key component. In Japan, we live in a society where men are often regarded as more highly than women. As this notion is projected onto family dynamics, many men feel that women ought to be subservient to men’s needs in the home. Gender, however, is not always the reason nor is it the only reason, as such violence can occur in same-sex partnerships as well.
I would also say that a sense of entitlement and lack of respect for your partner are other reasons. I think it’s important to note that respect and abuse are mutually exclusive notions. Domestic violence is sometimes referred as Intimate Partner Violence, which might be a more accurate term as it refers to someone being violent towards his/her partner. Such violence includes physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and financial abuse. It sometimes involves stalking and internet technology. Internet-based violence is referred to as cyber or digital violence.
In Voice Up Japan, we try to collect data on campus rape situation in Japan, do you have any information on that topic? You were at Temple University a few months ago, how often you visit Japanese universities?
I don’t have specific data on campus rape. Some stats are available in the Hunting Ground documentary, I believe, but I think that data is limited to the US. We, at Resilience, go into schools a lot. I, myself, may go in perhaps 10 to 15 times a year, but other staff members go into high schools and universities much more often. Satsuki Nishiyama and Chiharu Sakaeda, who are both staff members at Resilience, conduct about 50 talks a year in high schools, I believe.
NPO Resilience is also going to juvenile centers to meet minors who were convicted for sexual assaults. Can you explain your mission there?
The reason why I go into juvenile prisons to talk to young men who have raped is because I hope to have meaningful conversations with them, albeit for a short period of time. If, by having conversations with them, some of them were to re-think actions they had taken and to move in a healthier more positive direction in life, that is what I am striving for. I realize I am not able to change people. But what I can be is to be a catalyst in their lives, so that they can look within themselves to ask if they are willing to make changes in their lives.
I also wish to inspire hope in people through conversation. Life becomes difficult when one is without hope. I have heard from youths in prison about how they got to a point in their lives, where they just did not care anymore; not about themselves and not about others.
It is my hope that there will be less people, whether they be children, youths or adults, who find themselves in such a position. I know that there are a countless number of people who are feeling that way in today’s society. I find myself in that very state whenever my depression worsens and that feeling is something that I do not wish upon anyone.
In your opinion, why do you think it is so hard to speak out about your problems or traumatic events in Japan? It looks like it’s much for difficult for victims to do so than in any other countries..
I think that when society places shame onto people who have experienced sexual trauma, survivors are not likely to open up. Shame is a powerful emotion that can harm one’s identity. Shame is not an emotion that is born within oneself. Rather, it is an emotion that forms within relationships.
For example, if a survivor is blamed for what had happened to her/him, that is the moment when shame is brought upon her/him by whoever did the blaming. A survivor who has experienced a lot of pain already is highly unlikely to risk more pain by speaking out. For more survivors to feel it is ok to speak about their experiences, society needs to become safe. This is not just about Japan. It is a universal issue, I believe. At the same time, I do think that in certain countries, including Japan, the shame factor is stronger and therefore it is more difficult to raise one’s voice.
NPO Resilience website : http://resilience.jp/
To order the book : http://resilience.jp/books-order
To donate : https://resilience.stores.jp/