Andrea Seiss, Temple’s Title IX coordinator, visited Temple University Japan in April to speak with students and faculty about Title IX resources for sexual assault prevention and gender-neutral bathrooms.
Seiss’ visit comes several months after The Temple News reported there were no resources to report sexual assault at TUJ.
Bruce Stronach, the dean of TUJ, called Seiss’ visit “very productive,” in an email to The Temple News.
“Given the fact that our campus is almost 7,000 miles distant from Main Campus, and that many of our students and faculty and staff are not Americans and have not come up through the American university system, it was good to have the refresher sessions that Andrea provided to faculty, staff and students, as well as one-on-one sessions,” Stronach wrote.
Temple received a grant worth more than $25,000 from It’s On Us in March 2018, which will fund sexual assault education programs, an online sexual misconduct reporting system and other efforts to increase awareness of on-campus sexual assault. TUJ and Temple Rome will also receive funding from this grant to improve sexual assault awareness resources, Seiss said.
“We’re going to spend this next year talking more with Japan and Rome and seeing what their specific needs are, what works for them and how we can help them more with education and marketing,” she added.
Although TUJ does not have any on-campus sexual assault resources, the TUJ student handbook now has a section detailing how students can handle sexual assault. In November, The Temple News reported that there was no mention of sexual assault in the handbook.
TUJ will move into a new building that will be shared with Showa Women’s University in September 2019. The current TUJ campus is split between two buildings that are shared with other offices.
In this new building, there will be gender-neutral bathrooms, which Seiss encouraged Stronach to include, he said. Japanese university building codes call for only one universal bathroom, but TUJ asked for a total of three bathrooms for its six floors, Stronach wrote.
“While Japanese universities are somewhat lagging in this area, it is heartening to see that there is greater awareness in Japan,” Stronach wrote.
JAPAN’S #METOO MOVEMENT
Japan is just now having conversations about sexual assault, as the country is regarded to often discourage women from speaking out about sexual assault and women’s rights, the BBC reported in April.
In May 2017, Shiori Ito, a young Japanese journalist, publically accused Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a high-profile journalist, of raping her in 2015. Japanese police investigated this claim and others, and ultimately decided to drop charges against Yamaguchi due to insufficient evidence.
Ito received death threats and backlash on social media after her public accusation, and subsequently moved to London with her family out of fear for their safety.
On April 9, TUJ hosted a discussion, led by students and faculty, with Ito about sexual assault and her experience with the criminal justice system in Japan. More than 60 students and faculty attended the event, Seiss said.
“Many students asked her more questions about her personal experience, and she told the students what was helpful and not helpful for her, support-wise,” Seiss said. “The room was packed. You could see that people want to have this conversation.”
“I thought it was both uplifting for our students to be able to hear the story of a woman who fought and prevailed, and also instructive to understand in a practical way that although we know Japanese society has many positives, it also has serious balancing negatives,” Stronach wrote.
In June 2017, for the first time in more than a century, Japanese parliament expanded the definition of rape, which was previously limited to vaginal penetration by a penis, to include “forced sexual intercourse” including anal and oral sex, and recognizes men as possible victims.
Seiss said she hopes this new law will start more conversations about sexual assault so people can feel more comfortable coming forward, regardless of how they identify.
“What I saw among the students, faculty, and staff is an openness to have those conversations, but they’re just getting started with this,” she added. “In the United States, we’ve been talking about [sexual assault] much longer than Japan has, but we still struggle with it.”
“While it is important to pressure universities to have better sexual assault resources, it is ultimately up to Japan’s judicial system to ‘resolve such events,’” wrote Mason Hester, a law professor at TUJ, in a statement to The Temple News.
“A couple areas for specific changes could be a law requiring arrest in domestic violence calls when evidence of domestic violence is found, and the restructuring of the judicial system to allow for mobility between the careers of private legal practitioners, judges, and prosecutors,” Hester wrote.
Hester hopes the #MeToo movement can be integrated within a “larger minority rights movement” in Japan with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics,” an initiative he implemented in 2014 that increased the number of women in the Japanese workforce.
In 2016, the average percentage of women in the workforce in first-world countries was 59.4 percent, and Japan’s was 66.1 percent. This number has increased since “Abenomics” was implemented, the BBC reported.
“If Abenomics’ economic empowerment of women could be coupled with the recently increased intolerance of sexual assault and harassment and the nascent homosexual rights movements, then a strong coalition of progressive sex- and gender-related issues could bring about reform in those areas,” Hester wrote.