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Asian Lawyers Exchange Meeting 5 "Seminar on Stalking in Japan"

On July 27, 2022, ALN (Asian Lawyers Network) members participated in an online seminar organized by the University of Tokyo aiming at providing the opportunity for Asian lawyers and experts to exchange information and share knowledge. Ms. Akiko Kobayakawa, a counselor specializing in stalking, was invited as a lecturer and talked about the current situation of stalking damage in Japan, cooperation measures with the police and courts, and Japan's Anti-Stalking Act.


Below is a summary of the lecture.


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Lecture: “Current Status of Anti-Stalking Measures”



Stalking and the Definition of Stalker

A stalker is a person who has a fixed interest in "a specific person, area, or organization" and wants to reach the targeted person/object without permission or wants a certain reaction. The stalker does not have a specific motive or purpose like religious solicitation or sales. All stalking (unauthorized approaching) is a violation of manners, and unwanted approaching is an act of harassment. If the maliciousness escalates, it is against the law. The big difference from other forms of harassment such as sexual harassment and power harassment is that there is a law against stalkers. However, many stalkers want to stop stalking but are unable to do so and suffer. When the pain of not being able to approach the victim increases, the stalker thinks that it is the victim’s fault and ends up attacking her/him.


Relationships with Stalkers

Stalkers can be present in any relationship. The same is true when an abusive husband keeps chasing his wife who runs away in a case of domestic violence. In a store, a customer stops claiming when his/her case is heard and the problem is resolved. However, a “stalker” would continue to approach or harass the person in charge even after the issue is resolved.


Types of Stalkers and Their Motivations

Australia, along with the United Kingdom, is a leading country in research on stalkers, and classifies stalkers into five categories based on their motives.

1. The Intimacy-Seeking Stalker

Due to loneliness, there is a strong desire to be close even if it is temporary. Victims are usually strangers or acquaintances who become the target of the stalker’s desire for a relationship. Delusional symptoms may be present and may be prolonged.

2. The Incompetent Suitor

The incompetent suitor stalks in the context of loneliness or lust and targets strangers or acquaintances. Unlike the intimacy seeker, their initial motivation is not to establish a loving relationship, but to get a date or short-term sexual relationship. Incompetent suitors usually stalk for brief periods, but when they do persist, their behavior is usually maintained by the fact they are blind or indifferent to the distress of the victim. Sometimes this insensitivity is associated with cognitive limitations or poor social skills. In Japan, most incompetent suitors are men in their 50s and 60s.

3. The Rejected Stalker

With broken hearts as a trigger, they try to repair their relationships, but if they can't do it, some of them despair and try to take revenge or commit suicide, which may lead to revenge porn, injury or murder.

4. The Resentful Stalker

Resentful stalking arises when the stalker feels they have been mistreated or that they are the victim of some form of injustice or humiliation. Victims are strangers or acquaintances who are seen to have mistreated the stalker. This form of stalking can arise out of severe mental illness when the perpetrator develops paranoid beliefs about the victim and uses stalking as a way of getting back. The initial motivation is revenge, and the stalking is maintained by the sense of power and control the stalker derives from inducing fear in the victim. The anger is strong and can lead to injuries and murders.


5. The Predatory Stalker

Predatory stalking arises in the context of deviant sexual practices and interests. The stalking behavior is usually initiated as a way of obtaining sexual gratification (voyeurism) but can also be used as a way of obtaining information about the victim as a precursor to a sexual assault.


OR


Due to his eccentric habits, he is fixated on actions such as tailing and scavenging garbage, and can't stop. It is also confirmed as a sign of sexual crime.


Goals of Anti-Stalking Act

Although stalking victims want their perpetrators to be punished, many of them also want the stalkers to lose interest in themselves. Also, stalkers themselves are often unable to control their stalking behavior. To prevent first offenses and repeated offenses, the goal of anti-stalking measures should be to render stalkers harmless. From more than 20 years of experience, it seems that stalking incidents are increasing steadily with the rise of social media. In particular, there are many consultations about cases that the police are not aware of. According to consultations with family members of perpetrators, there are many cases in which murderous intent is already in the minds of the perpetrators even before the police find out. This situation is alarming.


3 Systems Necessary for Stalking Countermeasures


1. Control Function

Police and Judicial Response


2. Function for victim protection and assistance

Consultations, shelters


3. Support for offenders

Rehabilitation support such as counseling and treatment so that stalkers themselves can decide to stop stalking


Features of the Anti-Stalking Act - Crackdown function

Japan’s Anti-Stalking Act stipulates that 8 types of "stalking" and GPS devices should not be used to make people feel the following anxiety.

  • Physical danger

  • Disturbance of the peace or slander

  • Obstruction of freedom of movement

Anti-Stalking Act is a law intended to prevent first offenses

Repeated stalking will be considered a crime with imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than 1 million yen.


Laws usually punish things that have happened in the past, but the Anti-Stalking Act is able to issue warnings to prevent future crimes. If the stalking behavior does not stop even with administrative action such as warnings and restraining orders, a "judicial action " will be taken. However, it is also possible to apply the crime of violating the Anti-Stalking Act from the beginning. Many victims want to avoid legal action, so having a warning or restraining order issued is better for them. If the perpetrator stalks in violation of the restraining order, he or she will be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 2 years and a fine of up to 1 million yen, making the crime more serious than violating the Anti-Stalking Act.


8 types of stalking behavior


Repeating any of the following behavior is considered "stalking":

  • Following, ambushing, invading, or prowling

  • Telling that you are watching

  • Requesting for visitation and dating

  • Violent behavior

  • Continuously making phone calls, sending emails or documents, commenting on blogs and social media posts

  • Sending filth, etc.

  • Harming reputation

  • Violation of sexual shame

Unauthorized acquisition of location information using GPS equipment, etc.

  • Acquisition of location information from a location information recording/transmitting device (GPS device, etc.) possessed by the other party without the consent of the other party.

  • An act of attaching a location information recording/transmitting device (GPS device, etc.) to an object possessed by the other party without the other party's consent.

5 problems of the Anti-Stalking Act

  1. In many countries, warnings and restraining orders are issued by the courts, but in Japan, the police and the Public Safety Commission issue them. Since restrictions on human rights are essentially a matter for the courts, the police often have to be cautious about restraining orders that restrict people's freedom.

  2. Under the Anti-Stalking Act, unless the perpetrator has romantic feelings, it is not recognized as a stalking act. Therefore, hatred types of stalking such as resentments that have no romantic reason are excluded from the target and no warning is issued. Such cases are usually handled by the police with other criminal statutes and ordinances. Because many victims want the police to get involved before it becomes a criminal matter, it is necessary to reform the law.

  3. The methods of stalking are changing rapidly, and it is now possible to stalk people through surveillance using GPS and other IT technologies. We should be prepared to change the law speedily in line with the trends and advances in technology.

  4. There are many perpetrators who do not stop stalking even if they are punished, and the number of people who repeat stalking behavior is increasing. There is a limit to the judicial system when it comes to dealing with mental problems. Therefore, cooperation between the judicial system and medical care is required.

  5. 80% of perpetrators can stop stalking behavior with warnings, but the remaining 20% ​​cannot. In addition, about 10% of perpetrators with impaired behavior control ability need treatment, but there is a limit because in Japan, the court does not issue treatment orders.

Entry point for stalking countermeasures

Counseling is an entry point for stalking countermeasures. Most of the consultations are from the victims, but about 10% come from the perpetrators or their families. Victims come from a wide range of ages, from their teens to their 80s, and young people in particular often do not know the extent of their damage. For this reason, damage levels are divided into three levels: (1) violation of etiquette level, (2) unlawful act level, and (3) criminal case level. During the consultation, the victim is shown a diagram visualizing the level and asked to recognize their damage level. Some victims think that being raped is nothing more than a nuisance, while others think they might be killed just because the perpetrator said a few rough words. Many victims feel relieved after examining their level of damage with us and becoming more aware of it.


Psychological danger of stalkers and how to deal with them

Many of the victims who come for counseling want the counselor to intervene between them and the perpetrator and to meet or contact the perpetrator. I have met about 600 perpetrators so far, but I think the first intervention should be done by a counselor rather than the police. This is because when the police intervene, the perpetrators are more likely to shut their mouths. If the perpetrator has something to say to the victim, it is better to do so through the counselor.


In order to know the degree of danger to the victim, it is necessary to understand the history and the content of the perpetrator's act, especially the psychological danger of the perpetrator, before intervention. The problem is that there are currently no other counselors in Japan who can intervene this way.


【Perpetrator's psychological state】

1. Self-restraint (Risk)

The perpetrator apologizes for his/her mistakes or begs to start over. Damage can be avoided by preventive advice without third party intervention.


2. Intervention required (Danger)

Apologizing is not being listened to and feeling victimized, the perpetrator starts to attack the victim. Intervention from counselors, lawyers and police are required to protect the victim.


3. Urgent (Poison)

Because calls and texts are rejected by the victim, the perpetrator’s strong desires turn into despair, and thoughts of murder and suicide. Evacuate the victim and secure the perpetrator by arresting him/her.


Treatment of perpetrators

Listen to what perpetrators have to say and support their decision to stop stalking. If the perpetrator's desire to approach the victim is uncontrollable and there is a high possibility of impulsively causing the incident, it is better to recommend treatment rather than counseling. In Japan, treatment cannot be ordered by a court. Since 2016, the police have been recommending perpetrators medical treatment at an early stage. Since then, about 20% of perpetrators have voluntarily sought treatment. In Australia, a treatment order can be issued together with a punishment in a judgment, while in the UK, treatment can be ordered in judicial proceedings such as bail or parole. If the perpetrator does not seek treatment and is arrested for stalking, a doctor's approval is obtained to make the hospital his/her place of residence as a condition of applying for bail. Alternatively, there is a countermeasure to file a civil lawsuit and have the hospitalization treatment included in the content of the settlement.


Victim’s psychological state

In order to fill the gap between what the victim wants and what the victim should want, it is also necessary for the victim to know about her/his psychological state.


1. Risk

Victims consult counselors, but their anxiety does not go away. It is necessary to sympathize with their fear and show them the path to resolution.


2. Danger

Victims do not consult or listen to counselor’s advice. Even if they talk to the police, they say things like, "I'm afraid of retaliation. Please don’t do anything." Sometimes the police do nothing according to the victim's wishes, resulting in a crime.


3. Poison

Victims do not understand that they are victims. Even if separated from the stalker, the victim may return to the stalker. Victims who have lost their reason and are unable to make decisions need treatment.


Treatment to make stalkers harmless

Many stalkers can stop stalking by listening to the advice of counselors. However, it is important that those who cannot let go of their obsession receive treatment.


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