Black Box by Shiori Itō

Black Box by Shiori Ito

The aftermath of sexual assault has a tremendous effect on a victim’s life. Her suffering, and that of her family, is long term.

TW: Rape and PTSD

In her memoir Black Box, Shiori Itō tells the distressing event of sexual assault she encountered and her struggles to seek for help in flawed Japanese legal and investigative systems. Her case soon became the prominent #metoo movement in Japan. The book was first published in Japanese in 2017 and now it has been translated to English by Allison Markin Powell. I truly appreciate @feministpress for providing me an e-ARC of this book. It is definitely an important read.

Itō was an aspiring journalist when she met high profile TV journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi. Their relationship was purely professional. One night, she went to a restaurant with him to talk about a job opportunity over the dinner. That night changed her life forever. During their conversation, she became intoxicated and when she regained her conscious, she was in his hotel room and he was on top of her. In the following days, she was living in a daze. She was confused, scared and in pain.

When Itō confided in her close friend, she received help and guidance from her. With the support of her friends and family—though the trauma continued to stay with her—she finally reported to the police. Because the assault occurred behind closed doors and a third party can’t know what occurs behind them, she was told that her case was a “black box” and hence unprosecutable. She had to go through myriad of interviews and recount the horrid event to various policemen, prosecutors, and lawyers. She was appalled by the lack of proper procedures and training for the officers handling the sexual assault cases. She was surprised to find out that that there were very few (almost none) female officers to speak to, as well.

As the assailant was a prominent figure and an acquaintance of then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it was also a very difficult battle for her to fight. Itō questioned the credibility of the authorities conducting the investigation and pointed out how the perpetrators are protected in organisations. She encountered various backlashes from people, too. She had been called names and accused of many things. She specified victim blaming and being the target of criticism in the society.

Through her own experiences, Itō shared what to expect and how she had fought her battle should any of this unspeakable thing happen to anybody, so they would know they are not alone. She talked about her journey with PTSD and the importance of coping with it, too. By writing this book, she’s raising the awareness and hoping to have an effective change in Japan. More information need to be readily available and systems to be fixed and in place so that the process the victims have to go through becomes more manageable.

It is indeed an eye-opening and thought provoking read. I hope it gets translated into Burmese and other languages, too. In a country where rape is still a taboo to talk and the lack of proper procedures and/or support systems to help the sexually assaulted victims, book like this needs to get recognized. The information must be shared, an efficient system has to be implemented, and people need to be educated.

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