The number of DV consultations is increasing in Japan. In this second part of the report, we would like to look at the situation in the field of DV support in Japan, following on from Part I: “Women Victims of Domestic Violence,” a report on the raw reality of the situation.
As already mentioned, since the establishment of the Law for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Japan has built a support system mainly for female victims (conversely, the lack of support for male victims is one of the challenges).
Public and private consultation offices have been set up throughout Japan, and those who access them are temporarily sheltered in shelters or maternal and child living support facilities, where they receive appropriate treatment at medical institutions or find new jobs in order to reintegrate into society.
The problem, however, is that there are a certain number of people who fall through the cracks of such systematic support. Many of them are socially disadvantaged people with disabilities, as described in the previous section.
Yoshiko Endo, the representative of the NPO Kunitachi Yume Farm Jikka, originally worked as a counselor for women at a local government office, where she faced and supported women suffering from domestic violence. However, the public support she saw there was by no means sufficient.
Independence of Women Difficult Even with Municipal Support
The municipality has a support system for victims of domestic violence based on the law. What is being done here is to ‘hide’ DV-affected women in shelters, ‘help’ them escape to distant areas out of sight of their husbands, and then ‘help’ them become independent in those areas.
The person in charge encourages women who have fled to make the decision to hide in a shelter immediately and move to an area where their safety is guaranteed, where they can work on becoming self-reliant. But the problem is that many women are unable to do so.”
Let’s consider some specifics.
Let’s say there is a woman who has fled from her husband’s domestic violence at a local government office. The person in charge will let her decide whether or not to go to a shelter on the spot. The way the proposal is made is that if necessary, we will shelter her now.
But how many women would be able to make a quick decision? Those who have endured years of domestic violence and have packed their bags and come out with determination, but those who have temporarily fled from their abusive husbands are not likely to say “Yes, please protect me” on the spot. If they do, they will not be able to enter a shelter and will have to return home.
Even if they do enter a shelter, the difficulties will continue. In order to become independent, they are required to leave their home town and move to a distant city where they can hide from their husbands. However, it is not easy to find work and make a living from scratch in a completely new place. And even more so for people with disabilities or mental illness.
This can isolate these women in the new land they have just arrived in. They gradually become mentally ill and are unable to do the work they have found. If this happens, there is a greater risk that another mental illness or other problem will appear and they will need medical support, or that they will return home because of loneliness and be subjected to domestic violence by their husbands again.
In this case, even if they are connected to support, they will not be able to escape from their difficult situation. Herein lies the flaw in the existing support system.
Endo launched “Kunitachi Dream Farm Jikka” as a private organization to compensate for these deficiencies. Endo says, “Our organization is a private organization.”
Our organization aims to do things differently from the government. We own several shelters, and our goal is the same: to become self-reliant. But we assume that there are people who cannot do that immediately, so we open up our office space so that they can calm down, learn social skills, and find what they want to do while interacting with various people there, including supporters, rather than rushing them to become independent.”
I can’t even pay my electric bill, let alone do my chores.
This office in National City is open from 11:00 to 16:00 on weekdays. Women living in shelters, as well as those still at home and struggling with their husbands, and those who have become independent from shelters can come and go freely.
Lunch and coffee are available for a minimum of 100 yen in cashmere, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they also offer initiatives such as making and selling handmade items. Of course, there are professional supporters who are available for consultation if they need help with domestic violence, child rearing, or mental illness. They also help people apply for various types of assistance, such as welfare.
These facilities are more useful for women with disabilities, illnesses, and other complex and multi-layered circumstances. Some of these women are unable to do household chores, take their prescribed medication, or pay their electricity and other bills. We can provide detailed assistance to these people.
Unlike government assistance, which is provided according to a system, Jikka is an intermediary facility that makes it possible to provide assistance on a long-term basis and according to individual circumstances.
After the spread of the new coronas, our counseling offices tend to receive a lot of complaints from women about their poverty. These are consultations such as, “I ran away because I don’t have money, but I can’t rent a house,” “I have been moving from one friend’s or man’s house to another, but I am at my limit,” or “I am about to be evicted from the house of someone I rely on. Even if they have the courage to flee from domestic violence, they are unable to make a living beyond that point.
Some of the women have returned to their homes with their husbands again out of bitterness, or have become involved in crimes. Rather than those who have just fled their homes, support is needed for those who have fled but are having trouble making ends meet.
With this in mind, last year Endo and his team launched a housing support project in partnership with the Urban Renaissance Agency.
Jikka rents available rooms from UR at a low rent and rents them to women in need of housing, on the premise that Jikka will manage the rooms and support the tenants. Of course, those who have taken refuge here can also come to Jikka at any time for direct assistance.
We want to be a ‘family home’ for victims.
Even if they have a lot of problems, if they have a family home they can rely on, they are less likely to be in a situation where there is nothing they can do. Most people who are really struggling are those who, for various reasons, cannot receive support from their parents or siblings. It is natural for them to fall down to the ground if they cannot rely on their parents’ family, even though they are just having a hard time.
Our organization wants to be a “family home” for these women. A space where they can stop by anytime and calmly discuss various issues. That’s how we came up with the name Jikka.
As we have seen many times in this series, what women in difficulty need is a safe and secure place where they can always turn to. The more vulnerable they are, the more important it becomes.
Conversely, without such a place, no amount of physical or medical support will improve the difficulties they are facing.
Physical support alone is sufficient only for those who have the social skills to do so. That is why society as a whole needs to think about and work on what psychological support should be.
The series “Young Homeless” is looking for people in their 10s to 40s who have no permanent place to live. We are looking for the real-life experiences of people who have lost their housing, either now or in the past, such as people living in cars, Internet cafe refugees, migrant sex workers, day laborers living in dormitories, hotel dwellers, store dwellers, and people living in support facilities, as well as the voices of those who are providing support for these people. Anonymous or other conditions are acceptable, so please contact the author.
Kota Ishii (Author)
Interview, text, and photos： Kota Ishii
Born in Tokyo in 1977. Nonfiction writer. He has reported and written about culture, history, and medicine in Japan and abroad. His books include "Absolute Poverty," "The Body," "The House of 'Demons'," "43 Killing Intent," "Let's Talk about Real Poverty," "Social Map of Disparity and Division," and "Reporto: Who Kills Japanese Language Ability?