The latest rape case in Okinawa and the protests that it touched off made the national headlines for days on end. Memories of the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year old school girl were invoked*, while a second rape case appeared to add fuel to the fire. However, when the alleged 14-year old victim and her legal guardians decided not to push charges**, the national media dropped the matter; the alleged victim in the remaining case was a Philippine national and an adult, making it just another statistic on gaijin-on-gaijin crime. However, I did have enough interest in the matter to do a very rough estimate and figured that, if the crime per capita figures matched those of the overall Japanese population, there should be reports of somewhere around one rape case a year with US military personnel (not including their family members in Japan) as the suspect. So, one (or just possibly two) rape per thirteen years is pretty low. Am I missing something? Were there lots of other rapes in Okinawa that went unreported by the national media between 1995 and 2008? Well, someone else not only did some wondering, he (she?) actually went and looked for the data. The blogger could only come up with broader crime figures, but was able to make rough estimates that the crime rate of US military personnel was approximately half that of the Japanese population as a whole. The blogger uses official statistics and the arithmetic appears to be not unreasonable***.
The best way to make Japan safer, apparently, is to have more US military personnel and fewer Japanese walking the streets.
This is not that surprising when you really think about it. Although the US military recently lowered its recruiting standards substantially as the war in Iraq takes its toll, compared to the US population in general, the all-voluntary military still draws its men and women from a relatively crime-free, disciplined group of US citizens (and green card holders) and places them in a relatively regimented, rule-oriented environment.
So, unless someone comes up with more specific statistics, I have to assume that the media have been dancing around anecdotal evidence and making a big fuss and moving on when the anecdote no longer excites the public. More to the point, the latest US military crime wave is likely the 2008 equivalent of the 2001 shark attack wave － a media concoction. Keep that in mind when the media have their way with the latest robbery-with-physical injury case in Okinawa and the tabloids and weeklies splatter its pages with speculation about the future of the US military presence in Japan.
Speaking of the US military presence, there are some good reasons why the issue does not blow up the way it does in South Korea. Remind me to blog it one of these days.
* The men convicted in the 1995 case received 6 1/2 to 7 years in hard labor. Japanese courts appear to hand out much lower sentences for sexual crimes compared to their US counterparts. Remember, the last US soldier tried by court-martial and executed was convicted of a single case of rape.
** I wondered then if the facts of that case as reported might only be able to sustain a lesser charge under prefectural law. I refrained from going any further since news reports (and suspects/convicts and their advocates for that matter) are notoriously one-sided and are not to be trusted without due corroboration. Now we’ll never be able to make even an educated guess, unless there is a report on the outcome of court-martial (assuming there is going to be one).
*** Also in favor o f the blogger is the fact that he/she has a public interest advertising banner that alternates between such worthy institutions as Peace Wind and UNICEF. UNICEF happens to be one of the few UN institutions that I support. UNESCO? That’s another animal altogether.