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Journalist Wins $30K In Damages, In Case That Sparked Japan's #MeToo Movement

Freelance journalist Shiori Ito listens to questions from the media during a news conference outside a courthouse on Wednesday, in Tokyo.
Jae C. Hong

When journalist Shiori Ito went public with her account of allegedly being raped by a prominent reporter, she became the public face of the country's #MeToo movement.

Now a judge has ordered the man she accused of the assault, former Tokyo Broadcasting System Washington Bureau Chief Noriyuki Yamaguchi, to pay Ito about $30,000 in damages, for her physical and psychological pain.

"I'm so happy," she said, according to Reuters. "It's not over. Now, I have to deal with how I live with my scars."

Ito, now 30, was an intern at Reuters in Tokyo when the assault allegedly took place. Her internship was coming to an end, and she reached out to Yamaguchi about the possibility of an internship at his network. They had met before, when Ito was a student in New York.

In Tokyo in April 2015, they met for a beer, and then had dinner; she went to the restroom feeling dizzy, and she passed out. She says she awoke about 5 a.m., naked under Yamaguchi in a hotel room, as she recounted to The New York Times in 2017.

A few days later, she went to police, who investigated and told her they were about to arrest Yamaguchi.

The police found the taxi driver who had picked them up, and he testified that Ito was to be dropped off at the subway, but Yamaguchi said they should be taken to his hotel. Security camera footage from the hotel showed Yamaguchi propping Ito up and moving her through the lobby that night.

But prosecutors suddenly dropped the case against him and were not required to say why. Ito's supporters said Yamaguchi was helped by his close ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Ito filed a civil lawsuit against Yamaguchi, asking for about $100,000 in damages. Yamaguchi had countersued her, but the court ruled Wednesday that his lawsuit was groundless.

Yamaguchi maintains that he did not do anything illegal. In court documents, he says Ito was conscious and did not resist when he initiated sex, The New York Timesreports.

"I'm going to appeal this ruling as soon as possible," he said at a news conference in Tokyo, according to The Japan Times. "Both of our accounts were disputed during the trial but only my statement, my testimony, has been disapproved while Ito's claims have been taken at face value, as truth."

As NPR's Abigail Leonard reports from Tokyo, "Ito's case ignited a firestorm in Japan, where only 4% of rape victims go to the police. And she was harshly criticized — including by women who she said politely told her she should be ashamed for revealing what happened."

With victory in hand on Wednesday, Ito thanked those who had stood by her. She said she hopes the ruling will lead to changes in Japan's laws around sexual offenses.

"It has been a long time," she said, accordingto The New York Times. "But even little by little, a big change is happening. The scene I am witnessing is completely different from the one I used to see before."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.