Sexual harassment and assault are illegal under Japanese law, and perpetrators can lose their jobs, receive heavy fines, and even serve jail time. It is important to consider that a language barrier and differing cultural backgrounds make it more difficult to understand each other’s intentions, desires, and comfort levels. However, you are the best and only judge of what constitutes behavior that makes you uncomfortable. If you feel as though you are being sexually harassed either in the workplace or in your personal life, or you have been assaulted, you have a few options in how to proceed.
1. Make sure you are safe. Ensure you are in a safe location and away from the perpetrator. Seek medical attention if you require STI testing or emergency contraception. Check the Sexual Health Resources page for more information.
2. Assess your mental and emotional health. Do you need to take time off work? Do you have a support system you’re comfortable utilizing? Do you need professional counseling? (see Mental Health Resources)
3. Decide how to address the situation. You are encouraged to write a record of the incident(s) and to keep messages or physical evidence of the incident should you decide to file an official complaint. Saga Prefecture has three PAs (ALT, CIR, and Japanese) you may consult who can provide objective support, but note that they may be obligated to break confidentiality in some instances.
If you wish to take official action without the police:
- If the situation involves people within the same Contracting Organization (i.e. two JETs or a JET and a BOE employee), you can check the CO’s procedures for dealing with sexual harassment and assault among employees. All offices are required by law to have a system for handling such complaints, and should have somebody on staff to deal with them. SPIRA may be able to provide an interpreter if necessary. Note that it is possible this process will take several months, and consequences for and attitudes toward sexual harassment vary by workplace.
- If the situation involves JETs from two different COs, the International Affairs Division may be able to mediate. They may contact the CO of the JET who perpetrated the assault to report that a complaint has been filed against their employee. However as it does not directly employ JETs, CLAIR and the Prefectural Government cannot guarantee any official action and cannot take any legal or professional action toward perpetrators of sexual harassment or assault.
If you wish to take legal action:
You are encouraged to make use of free legal counseling offered by Rainbow Plaza in Fukuoka and to consult your embassy or consulate for legal advice (see Legal Resources and Embassy and Consulate Contact Information for more info).
SPIRA may be able to provide an interpreter if the JET wishes to file a report with the police or meet with a lawyer independently.
Note: A trial or police investigation will likely take a long time, and victim-blaming is a real risk with reporting to the police or taking legal action. If you feel as though your case is or has been inappropriately handled, you have the option of contacting the Japanese Labor Board or your embassy (see Embassy and Consulate Contact Information).