Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 23, 2015 - Kodansha release of I am Catherine Jane: "50 years ago, a US serviceman raped me too...I want to live my life again from today...With tears in her eyes & in mine, we embraced each other. I did not know her name. But to me, her name was Okinawa."

On May 23, Kodansha released the Japanese translation of "I am Catherine Jane" 
Fifty years ago, a US serviceman raped me too. For 50 years, I have lived in sorrow.

I am now over 70-years-old...I want to live my life again from today...

With tears in her eyes and tears in mine, we embraced each other. I did not know her name. But to me, her name was Okinawa.
This passage from I am Catherine Jane describes a meeting between a woman sharing her story of rape for the first time after hearing Fisher's shared story of rape and her quest for survival, healing and justice in the face of U.S. and Japanese government indifference to the assault.

Earlier this month, after giving speeches outside Camp Schwab, rape survivor Catherine Jane Fisher and over 30 supporters tied 100 meters of white ribbon in remembrance of the survivors raped by United States servicemen stationed in Okinawa since 1945, to promote awareness of violence against women.  The day before, 35,000-50,000 protestors attended the mass rally for Henoko in Naha.

A longtime supporter of Okinawa, Fisher clearly sees the interconnections between the 70-year history of US military rapes of Okinawan women and US military rape of the land and sea to build military bases. While the media is covering the ongoing Okinawan governent effort to save the coral reef and dugong habitat at Henoko from landfill and military base construction by the US and Japanese governments, background history starts in 1996 or 2006 or 1996, the dates of recent agreements between the two governments.

Australian rape survivor begins White Ribbon Violence Against Women" campaign 
outside U.S. military training base Camp Schwab
(Photo: courtesy of Catherine Jane Fisher)

This framing omits earlier history crucial for understanding the depth of the Okinawan movement: the  US military forcibly seized and demolished a vibrant farming and fishing community to build Camp Schwab during the 1950's period of "Bayonets and Bulldozers. This followed earlier seizures of Okinawan private property during and immediately after the Battle of Okinawa, when 400,000 Okinawans were detained in POW camps.

Fisher explains that many elder women protesters at Henoko and in those crowds are survivors of US military rape during this period.

The 1950s seizures throughout the prefecture were brutal, accompanied by assaults, including sexual assaults, against resisters. US military crimes against Okinawans, especially rapes, took place on a daily basis at this time, according to scholar Miyumi Tanji, in her 2006 book, Myth, protest, and struggle in Okinawa:
Victimization of Okinawan farmers and forceful acquisition of their land was combined with the physical violence inflicted on the locals personally...Violence directed towards the local populace by US military staff, especially rape, revealed the crudest and most brutal aspect of the power relations between the occupiers and the occupied...

'US land acquisition in Isahama and Ie-jima and the rape [and murder of 6-year-old Yumiko Nagayama] resulted the humiliation of all Okinawans, leading to what Arasaki calls the first wave of the "Okinawa Struggle.' ...These rallies became models for mass demonstrations in the community of protest of the future.
 Okinawan women protesting the forced US military seizures 
 of their homes and farms in July 1955.

On May 23, Kodansha released the Japanese translation of I am Catherine Jane in which Fisher relates the story of her uphill climb for justice after being raped by a U.S. sailor in Japan.  Vivid published the English-language version last year.

Damon Coulter's review at The Japan Times details Fisher's suffering and challenge to the indifference of the US and Japanese governments:
Fisher was physically raped in 2002 by Bloke Deans, a U.S. serviceman stationed at Yokosuka. Immediately afterward, she faced a psychological ordeal at the hands of the Kanagawa police force, who subjected her to 12 hours of questioning without food, drink or medical attention when she reported the crime. Finally, the United States government violated Fisher twice — first by giving Dean an honorable discharge, allowing him to leave Japan and flee charges, and then by later disdaining their own “zero tolerance” rape policy by refusing to acknowledge or take responsibility for their own corruption...

David McNeill's tells the even fuller story of Fisher's indomitable struggle in "From Yokosuka rape to U.S. court victory, ‘Jane’ commits her 12-year ordeal to print":
"I could have returned to Australia and closed my eyes, but somebody had to stand up.”

...Fisher won a civil suit against him in a Tokyo court in 2004 but the ruling had no jurisdictional authority in the U.S. Last year, after tracking Deans in America for several years, Fisher finally persuaded a circuit court in the U.S. to enforce that judgment for rape against him.

Fisher’s insistence that the U.S. military had helped Deans evade justice and that the Japanese government did little to help her pursue him was strengthened in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court by a statement submitted by Deans in which he claims a U.S. Navy lawyer told him to leave the country. The U.S. court’s decision was a victory for Fisher, but one that left her physically, mentally and financially exhausted, she says.
Fisher is now an advocate for rape survivors, campaigning for 24-hour rape crisis centers, and for making rape kits mandatory in police stations and hospitals. (The US government might consider funding these much-needed centers, as a matter of restitution and atonementl.)

Fisher is an esteemed member of the Okinawan movement for democracy, human rights, justice and healing which is characterized by intermutual respect and support, hallmarks of authentic community.  A visual artist and and author, Fisher created a FB page, Save Henoko, which focuses on inspirational images and thoughts to support the supporters of Henoko.

Born in Australia, Fisher has lived in Japan since the 1980s and has three sons.

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