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2014年4月21日 (月)

性暴力被害者 “駆け込み寺”を充実させたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun 6:59 pm, April 20, 2014
Support centers must be expanded for victims in sexual violence cases
性暴力被害者 “駆け込み寺”を充実させたい

Efforts must be redoubled to minimize the number of those victims of sexual violence such as sexual assault and forcible indecent exposure who have no other choice but to suffer in silence.

To achieve this end, it is imperative that support centers that can serve as shelters, or safe havens, for such victims are improved.

Conceived as “one-stop support centers” for victims of sexual violence, two additional facilities were established earlier this month, one at each of two privately run hospitals in Fukui and Shiga prefectures.

Support teams with expertise and obstetrics and gynecology specialists are routinely stationed at each facility to provide victims of sex-related offenses with counseling and medical care. Depending on the individual’s wishes, the centers can also serve as a liaison to enable victims to seek assistance from lawyers, professional counselors, local municipalities’ social welfare officials and police. The role that the centers will play in facilitating communication between such victims of sex-related crimes and a range of related support organizations is undoubtedly very important.

Sexual violence is characterized by the fact that victims often find it difficult to speak out about the offenses to those around them, resulting in the failure of cases to be brought to the fore. In many instances, victims have encountered difficulties in various aspects of everyday life, such as being unable to go out due to lingering anxieties and fear.

Support centers must provide sexual assault victims with responses well suited to help them alleviate the mental and physical scars inflicted by offenders.

The country’s first sexual assault support center was launched in 2010 at a private-sector hospital in Osaka Prefecture. The center receives as many as about 6,500 inquiries and requests for counseling a year.

The government incorporated a goal of expediting the construction of new support centers into the key items in the Second Basic Plan for Crime Victims that was announced in 2011. A prescriptive guide for the establishment and administration of support centers was completed in 2012, with a policy calling for setting up “at least one center in each prefecture,” including Tokyo and Hokkaido.

Govt subsidies needed

But such centers have been launched in only about 10 prefectures nationwide, including Tokyo and Hokkaido. The biggest factor behind the small number of facilities is a lack of funding.

Private-sector organizations are largely behind the establishment of such facilities, making their operation dependent on donations. At some centers, the staff who provide support to victims work without being paid at all. Due to shortages of obstetricians and gynecologists, some centers have faced difficulty securing hospitals to serve as the primary base for their activities.

In the United States and European countries as well as South Korea, support centers have been founded through government-backed networks. The United States has as many as 1,100 rape crisis centers, which are run by subsidies from the federal government and other public entities.

Similarly, the central and local governments in Japan should subsidize the establishment and management of support centers. Plans to establish such centers at publicly operated hospitals should also be encouraged.

Fostering support providers is also important, as high levels of knowledge and techniques are needed to deal effectively with sexual assault victims. In addition, measures are indispensable for the prevention of so-called secondary victimization, in which victims, after being subject to sexual violence, suffer further due to the inappropriate words and deeds of those around them.

Some organizations aiding sexual assault victims have made it mandatory for prospective support providers to undergo a 40-hour training program.

It may be advisable for local governments and others to sponsor training workshops for both actively working supporters and prospective supporters to ensure that specialized expertise is disseminated.

There are plenty of tasks the central government and municipalities must address, including the issue of providing sexual assault victims with subsidies to partially fund their medical care and examinations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2014)


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