Photo/IllutrationDemonstrators near Tokyo Station in April protest court rulings that found sex offenders not guilty. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Photo/Illustraion

Most female victims of forced sexual assault were victimized by acquaintances or others close to them, according to a survey.

In more than half of the 41 cases of non-consensual sex surveyed, victims did not or could not resist.

Azusa Saito, a full-time lecturer at Tokyo's Mejiro University, and eight other experts in psychology and medicine presented their findings to “share the perception that sex without the partner's consent constitutes sexual violence.”

The researchers told 80 or so attendees at a meeting at the University of Tokyo in May that the scope of measures to support such women needed to be expanded.

“Many victims initially cannot fully understand what happened and blame themselves, thinking they might have let down their guard or failed to put up strong resistence,” Saito said. “When they are able to finally figure out the cause of their mental anguish, victimized individuals reach the point where they feel they can ask for help and see what options are available to them.”

Under Japan’s criminal law, non-consensual sex is not regarded as a crime unless perpetrators resort to violence or threat. A string of recent not-guilty rulings in rape cases has triggered renewed calls to revise the legislation.

The researchers said the survey was intended to shed light on how victims view their ordeal, thereby providing more ammunition for discussion on the issue.

Saito and her colleagues contacted 31 victimized women through a victims’ group and the Internet between May and November of last year.

The respondents were in their 20s to 60s. Some said they were forced to have sex more than once.

Forced sex totaled 41 cases. Nineteen involved women who were 20 or older. The remaining 22 cases took place when victims were under 20.

In 11 cases, the women were attacked by strangers. In the remaining 30 cases, or 73 percent, the perpetrator was someone the victims already knew, such as a family member, company supervisor, friend or acquaintance.

The perpetrators were male in 39 cases and female in two instances.

The findings showed that victims physically tried to resist in three instances, while in 14 cases the women put up verbal resistance.

In 24 cases, or 59 percent, the women did not or could not resist.

In nine instances, the attack was reported to police. Guilty verdicts were handed down by courts in two cases.

Twenty of the respondents said they had contemplated suicide after their unwanted sexual experience.

Yuko Otake, a researcher at the University of Oxford and one of the joint head researchers in the study, said: “Social factors, such as it being difficult to say no to one’s superiors, can be seen as reasons why the victims cannot resist.”