Shiori Ito: Why I Speak Up

By PHILO COHEN

Shiori Ito is the first woman to speak up about rape in Japan. Last year, she broke the silence of a layered taboo and is now fighting for her rights and the ones of victims in Japan. Report of a conference Ito gave at my school on April 9th 2018 upon her evolution, her beliefs and how she stands up against the corrupted societal pressure in Japan.

 ©Philo Cohen

©Philo Cohen

Japan supposedly the safest country of the world, until one needs protection, until a woman needs justice. The age of consent for sexual relationship in Japan is 13, Shiori informs us during her speech.

“I don’t want this to happen to any of you”. She was surprised of the harshness of the process that comes after speaking out. I was so shocked when she said that you have to reenact the rape. She had nightmares for a long time, she still does today. She felt like she was being investigated. “Justice and legal system is behind in Japan” she said. Moreover, she mentioned that there are multiple degrees of authority in investigation process. To make sure the highest ranked decision maker was on her side was a struggle throughout the process of incriminating her harasser. She had to fight to prove that she was not consenting to the act. She explains how there is no such thing as a strong and straight NO in Japanese culture. Sometimes people say no but they mean yes. She said she yelled in Japanese and in English when being harassed and it did not stop him. She insists on the fact that there needs to be a clear education around consent and what is no in Japanese schools. 

She said she rediscovered her own society and started to question her place in the world, where she belongs and where her home really was. When someone later asked her if she felt like Japan was still home today, she answered that home was within her, and where the people she loved and who loved her were. 

After she spoke out, Shiori received death threats, and her and her family got strongly blackmailed. That is why she had to move to London, she explains, and that is why she is still living here today: because she does not feel safe enough in Japan.

Shiori explained to us that the reason why the #MeToo movement has not reached Japan yet is because with the patriarchal and societal pressure that is weighing upon Japan, asking survivors to say #MeToo is too much. She and her friends instead started #WeToo, where other people start doing something for Japan relationship to rape judgment to change. 

“Being no one and speaking out made an impact” she says, empowering the audience with her words. “Even if it feels like your voice didn't reach anyone, you have to believe in yourself and in your truth”. She finishes her speech by glancing at each of us, my eyes cross hers “When you speak out, someone will listen, I promise”. 

To see this woman talk about her experience and understand all the obstacles she has faced made me feel small, but simultaneously, I felt like my experiences with men and sexual assault were understood. It is so important that women follow her. She is raising awareness in Japan, and all over the world today. She is powerful. #WeToo should be.