After five years of long and arduous trials, the sexual assault case of a former JET Program member has reached a verdict. On January 24th, the Nagasaki Court ordered the Nagasaki prefectural government to pay ¥500,000 ($3,891 USD as of February 2023) to SaseboAnon (pseudonym), who originally sought ¥2 million ($15,562 USD) in damages.
“I was never worried about the amount of money,” SaseboAnon emphasized.
Although the amount of compensation was modest – approximately 1/4 of what she had originally sought – she says she feels satisfied with this outcome. She expressed gratitude that the Nagasaki court acknowledged the injustice she endured.
“When I started looking into suing, I was already warned that this case could take at least five years and that the compensation amount would be low. I wanted to focus on holding people accountable and putting my energy towards that, not the dollar amount.”
Other lawsuits in Japan have also ended with similar results. Shiori Ito’s lawsuit against her assailant, former TBS reporter Noriyuki Yamaguchi, also took over four years before reaching a verdict. Ito won approximately 30% of her requested compensation (she received 3.32 million yen; she’d sought 11 million yen originally).
With sexual assault and sexual harassment cases like SaseboAnon’s, the waiting game can be one of the most difficult aspects of their legal battle.
“It was very stressful leading up to the trial. I prepped for 5 years with my lawyer. I had a lot of anxiety over what they’d ask. But the questions weren’t as bad as I thought.”
After the trial on October 31st, SaseboAnon left with an overall sense of accomplishment. “I wasn’t able to relax. But I felt accomplished. I said what I wanted to say and stood up for myself. But when the court announced that the verdict wouldn’t come until late-January, I was surprised that I had to wait….For anybody who struggles with their mental health, this can build up anxiety.”
Waiting for the outcome of a lawsuit can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience. To manage it, SaseboAnon utilized self-care and sought support from a therapist and others. Despite the waiting period of almost three months, she maintained her day-to-day life and didn’t let the stress and uncertainty consume her.
“After the article came out, people reached out to me on GoFundMe and on social media. That helped with the waiting process.” She was grateful that her story could help others facing similar situations in the future. Her story is too common – and often goes undiscussed.
Social media uncertainty
The outcome of a lawsuit can have far-reaching consequences. SaseboAnon’s own social outreach efforts hit a snag just days before her trial. Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter in late-October raised concerns surrounding the platform’s stability. Many activists worried whether it would remain a viable tool for their causes.
Twitter has traditionally been a crucial platform for advocacy work and had brought in some of SaseboAnon’s highest traffic. The unpredictability surrounding Twitter’s future, and the potential risks for glitches or even a shutdown, created additional stress and anxiety.
“I never thought I’d ever be worried about Twitter in my life. I would post long Twitter threads in multiple languages, hoping that the sequence of the Tweets wouldn’t be out of order. My friends and volunteers took the time to translate everything. In the end, it looks like we still have [Twitter] after all.”
Soon, it was the day of the verdict. With Japan being a day ahead and the results expected overnight in the US, SaseboAnon was determined not to let the wait affect her mood for the rest of the day.
“I made sure not to open my email first thing in the morning. I already arranged an appointment with my therapist and was journaling how I would feel with whichever way the verdict went. Even if I didn’t win, it wouldn’t have been my fault, just as how the sexual harassment and sexual assault were never my fault.
“Even if this didn’t work out, I would’ve still proved a point. ‘SaseboAnon’ could still be a legacy and a talking point in the future. I worked on how to be more gentle with myself in therapy. Work was a pleasant distraction for me during the day, too.”
Before hearing the results from her lawyer, she’d received photos of the news coverage on TV of the final verdict from a friend in Nagasaki. “On the night before the verdict, I kept waking up. I felt so anxious. Around 5:00am, I heard from my friend before my lawyer, but it was a good thing. He and I are very close and he’s the comedic one in the group.
“I felt that he was the right person to tell me the news. I heard from my lawyer much later, but I didn’t receive screenshots from the news. It was nice to see my results on the TV screen. The English version of the articles also took a while before rolling out.”
After hearing about the results, SaseboAnon later discovered that the Nagasaki Board of Education had the option to appeal the verdict until February 7th. However, as of February 9th, she confirmed that the Board of Education had decided not to move forward with the appeal. This means that she’ll receive the full amount as per the original verdict.
SasebooAnon could finally close the case and move forward with gratitude.
“People just see me and think that I had done this all by myself. But I asked a community of people for help. I am only here at this point because of the people who helped me along the way. I had a friend with N1 [the top proficiency level on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test] who translated several pages of documents over the years and refused to take a single cent. Like I mentioned before, I only found my lawyer thanks to another connection. Now I know so many people around the world who care about these issues.
“I’m happy that I can contribute something in the world and have a legacy of holding people accountable. Other foreign workers have every right to be safe. Sexual assault and harassment should be taken seriously.”
This isn’t the last time that someone will ever experience sexual assault and harassment in Japan. However, recent cases like SaseboAnon’s serve as a hopeful step in the right direction towards creating a future that holds perpetrators accountable.
Sexual assault and harassment abroad can have devastating effects on the lives of survivors, often leaving long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological scars. This development serves as a reminder of our need for continued advocacy and action towards creating a world free of sexual assault and harassment.