A Tokyo court awarded damages to a freelance journalist Wednesday in a high-profile rape case that involves an attacker known for his close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ultraconservative supporters.
The Tokyo District Court ordered former television newsman Noriyuki Yamaguchi to pay $30,150 to freelance journalist Shiori Ito for physical and psychological pain resulting from his alleged sexual assault.
Ito filed a civil suit in 2017, demanding $100,540 in damages for her suffering and seeking an explanation why Yamaguchi was never arrested and prosecutors dropped the criminal case.
Yamaguchi has denied any wrongdoing in published articles and on social media, saying they had sex by consent. He filed a countersuit this year, demanding she pay $1.2 million for allegedly damaging his reputation and trust by publicizing him as a rapist.
The court dismissed Yamaguchi’s claims.
The #MeToo movement is still only beginning to catch on in Japan, where speaking out often draws criticism rather than sympathy, even from other women.
In Ito’s case, ultraconservative supporters came to Yamaguchi’s defense.
Ito and her supporters said they hope her victory would be a step toward promoting awareness in a society where sexual victims like her wouldn’t have to feel intimidated and isolated.
Judge Akihiro Suzuki said Ito’s attempt to seek the truth in the case and how it was handled, and to promote awareness about social and legal issues surrounding sexual assault victims, is based on her intent to serve the public interest and does not constitute defamation against the defendant.
Ito said that after she became dizzy and passed out in a restroom, Yamaguchi took her to his hotel room and raped her in April 2015 while she was incapacitated. She said that he continued the assault even when she woke up and told him to stop.
Ito visited the women’s clinic the next day to get treated and filed a criminal complaint with the police, though it took weeks to get them to accept it and start investigating. The prosecutors eventually dropped the case, without explaining to her why.
She held a news conference a month later announcing that she had requested a court-appointed citizens’ panel to review the decision to drop the case. The panel in September agreed with the decision not to indict.