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Survivor of US Military Rape in Japan Allowed to Pursue Perpetrator in US Courts


By Ann Wright

In a landmark case, on September 6, 2012, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Circuit Court Judge gave standing to an Australian woman to collect a Japanese civil judgment against a former US Navy sailor for raping her in Japan ten years ago.

Perpetrator Given Honorable Discharge and Left Japan without informing Japanese Court

A civil judgment by a Tokyo court in 2004 ordered sailor Bloke T. Deans to pay ¥3 million yen in damages to Catherine Jane Fisher as compensation for emotional and physical harm from the rape.  However, despite knowing of the Japanese court case against Deans, the US Navy issued Deans an honorable discharge and allowed Deans to leave Japan without informing the Japanese court or Ms. Fisher.

Because Deans had departed Japan, the Japanese courts were unable to enforce the ruling against Deans and Ms. Fisher never received any compensation from that judgment for emotional and physical damages caused by Deans. 

In 2008, Ms. Fisher was provided some compensation for damages from a Japanese Ministry of Defense fund for victims of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel.

Deans located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin-Lawsuit filed

For ten years, Ms. Fisher searched for Mr. Deans and in 2011 she finally located him in Milwaukee. In May, 2012, Ms. Fisher filed a suit against Mr. Deans in Milwaukee Circuit Court.

On September 6, 2012, the Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge denied Deans’ motion to dismiss Ms. Fisher’s complaint to enforce the Japanese judgment.  After reviewing the briefs and listening to oral arguments of both sides, the Judge found that Deans’ procedural objections to the complaint were not sufficient to prevent the case from going forward.

 Ms. Fisher will now be able to proceed with the substance of the case, in which Ms. Fisher’s legal team from the Madison, Wisconsin office of law firm Perkins Coie will argue that under the common law principles of comity, the Milwaukee court should recognize and enforce the Japanese judgment.

After the September 6 hearing, law firm representative Christopher Hanewicz stated, “We are very satisfied with the Judge’s decision, which is an important step in holding Mr. Deans accountable for his actions, bringing some sense of closure to Ms. Fisher’s ten year ordeal.”

After returning to the United States, Deans committed other crimes.  According to Wisconsin court records, Deans was sentenced in 2012 to 45 days in jail in Milwaukee County for child neglect. Police found three of his children left alone in his house in a room locked from the outside. A 2-year-old and two 3-year-old twins were covered in their own feces and urine.  Deans reportedly has 11 children.

Mr. Deans owns 9 houses in Milwaukee and receives a military disability pension. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8487894

The next stage of Ms. Fisher’s journey for justice will be an October 18, 2012 status hearing in Milwaukee in which decisions on a trial date and other aspects of the case will be made.

Rape of Civilian Women in Japan

Thousands of Japanese women and girls have been sexually assaulted or raped by US military personnel since American forces invaded Japan in 1945.  On the island of Okinawa, rape of Okinawan girls has happened so frequently and has precipitated massive citizen protests that that the US military is being forced to reduce its presence on the island. 

60 years after the end of World War II, 19,000 Marines still are located on Okinawa. Between 4,700 and 5,000 Marines will relocate from Okinawa to Guam, The remainder of the 9,000 who are to relocate from Okinawa will move to Hawaii or be part of a rotational presence in Australia and elsewhere in the region, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/27/marines-leave-okinawa_n_1458024.html

The first 200 US Marines arrived in Darwin, Australia in April, 2012 on a six month deployment.  The Marine force will grow to 2,500 but the Australian government is stating that there is no permanent US military base on Australian soil.

Highest number of rapes in 2011 by US Marines worldwide was committed in Japan

In its new “battle plan” to prevent sexual assault in the US Marine Corps, Marine officials finally provided statistics of the number of sexual assaults and rapes committed by US Marines in Japan in 2011, although the statistics do not reflect whether the victim was civilian or military.  74 rapes were committed by US Marines in Japan, 67 by Marines on Okinawa and 7 at Iwakuni, Japan.  The next highest number of rapes by Marines was 70 committed at the large Marine base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, followed by Camp Pendleton, California with 64. http://www.stripes.com/news/marines-release-new-plan-to-prevent-sexual-assault-1.181307

According to the Department of Defense, 3,192 sexual assaults or rapes were reported in 2011. But so many sexual assaults go unreported that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta estimated earlier this year that the total number is closer to 19,000.  http://www.stripes.com/news/dod-number-of-sex-assault-reports-holds-steady-in-2011-1.174405

Neither the US Army, Navy, Air Force nor Coast Guard has provided rape statistics by military base, so we do not know the full range of reported rapes by US military in Japan. Only the Marine Corps has done so.

Rape by US Military Affects US Foreign Policy

In an attempt to quell massive Okinawan protests, on February 13, 2008 Lieutenant General Wright, commander of all US military forces in Japan, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer and Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer, commander of U.S. Marines in Japan, met with Okinawa Governor Nakaima to express their concern. They promised steps will be taken to prevent future incidents.

On February 28, 2008 on an official visit to Japan, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also expressed her regrets to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Foreign Minister Mashiko Komura. "I earlier had had a chance to express the regret to the prime minister on behalf of President (George W.) Bush, on behalf of myself and the people of the United States for the terrible incident that happened in Okinawa," Rice said at a joint news conference held after she spoke with Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura. "We are concerned for the well-being of the young girl and her family."  http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/23/9154

In a press conference with Komura, Rice said the United States will try to prevent such incidents from recurring and said the U.S. Forces in Japan and the U.S. Embassy would be reinforcing military discipline. Rice also said that Okinawa is "extremely important" for the security of the Asia-Pacific region and it is important for the U.S. and Japan to go ahead with the U.S. forces reorganization.

Rice did not mention publicly the Bush administration's push for Japanese participation in the Iraq war by providing more refueling ships and logistics aircraft, which has sparked outrage in the Japanese public as it violates the renunciation of war Article 9 of their constitution.

Lt. General Zilmer, commander of U.S. Marines in Japan, ordered a two-day stand-down for all Marines in Japan for "ethics and leadership" training. The incident also led to tight restrictions, for a time, for American troops and their families at the U.S. base on Okinawa. The U.S. military in Japan also formed a sexual assault prevention task force after the incident.

Meeting Jane in Japan

In 2008, I met Jane in Japan when I was there on a 30 day speaking tour. We participated on a panel in Yokohama on the issue of rape in Japan by US military personnel.

 I had previously been on Okinawa where I met with members of Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence who have tracked the thousands of Okinawan and Japanese women who have been sexually assaulted and raped by US military since 1945.

I was very impressed and moved by Jane’s tenacity in pursuing justice for herself as well as bring the issue of rape in Japanese life to light. She has chronicled her journey in a book “The Door to Freedom-Your Life from Today,” http://warriorsjapan.webs.com/bookreviews.htm.  Jane has found some degree of healing through art and activism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wclQjtK5cBM&feature=youtu.be

Her website is http://warriorsjapan.webs.com.

Ms. Fisher’s journey for justice has been documented in an excellent 2012 Australian TV “60 Minutes” documentary “The Power of One.” http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8487894

About the Author:  Ann Wright served in the US Army/Army Reserves for 29 years and retired as a Colonel.  She served 16 years as a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia.  She was on the team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001. Ms. Wright resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.  She has written extensively on sexual assault and rape in the US military. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

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