Employee Arrested in Disability Facility Assault Incident | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Employee Arrested in Disability Facility Assault Incident

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Shinji Utsu at the time of his arrest last November

Last November, Shinji Utsu, 60, the head of Alps Forest, a day service in Suita City, Osaka Prefecture, and two male employees were arrested on suspicion of assaulting a high school student who was a user at an after-school day service for children with disabilities.

Utsu and the other defendants were indicted on December 12 of last year on charges of assault and other offenses after they were suspected of head-butting a user with severe intellectual disabilities and severe self-injurious behavior disorder, as well as hitting him on the head and banging his head on the floor while riding on a horse.

The after-school day care service had been involved in a previous incident, and during the course of the police investigation, the entire assault was caught on a security camera, which brought the crime to light.

The Alpine Forest was reportedly accepting a large number of children with relatively severe disabilities.

“When I observed this incident, what came to mind was that the operators were not able to fully embrace professionalism. That’s the essence of it. There are indeed supporters who control users through fear. Such supporters are not professionals. Violence or extreme language is unnecessary to calm users. By resorting to extreme measures, supporters can provoke users, leading them into further panic. The occurrence of violence indicates that the supporter is getting caught up in the user’s pace; it is crucial for the supporter to guide the user at the supporter’s pace. It’s not about being lenient, but it’s different from dominating through fear. In this setting, it becomes extremely important for supporters to acquire the skill of calming users.”

Ms. A works at a residential facility for people with severe intellectual disabilities. Although this facility is not for children, the same underlying elements are required of those who work in facilities for people with disabilities.

“In the facility where I work, there are also many individuals with severe behavioral disorders. Some may experience panic, and if one person panics, it can escalate, leading the entire place into a state of panic. However, it’s crucial not to succumb to emotions in such situations.”

Ms. A. is quick to criticize the Suita incident, saying that the representative of the facility did not have the qualifications and competence to support children with disabilities.

“To be a supporter, you need the ability to overlook feelings of dislike or anger, and objectively analyze situations. Regardless of what is happening right in front of you, the ability to instantly nullify your own emotions is acquired through experience, supporting various users. It’s a kind of ‘power’ on the part of the supporter. Creating an atmosphere that calms. It’s about human strength, the ability to see the other person, someone adept at it can bring calmness to the whole. In the Suita incident, it’s a significant problem that the person in a leadership position lacked these qualities.”

Ms. A has experienced many cases in which people with severe intellectual disabilities or behavioral disorders calmed down as if they were different people with our encouragement and consideration.

“I had a female client, around 40 years old, who used to live in the community until she came to the facility. Initially, after joining, she would often get upset, being kicked, hit, bitten with blood flowing. It was always intense. But you must not flinch. Even when bitten, bleeding, I would continuously show her, ‘What is this?’ to the user. As understanding what’s wrong or what’s not allowed can be challenging in words, I show the scars to make them understand.


Until the other person trusts me, as a supporter, I have to go to great lengths to engage with them. Listen to their demands up to a point, but draw a clear line beyond that, building a trusting relationship.”

The first month or two after a user first arrives is critical. If the user and the supporter cannot clearly define each other’s position and build a relationship here, no matter how much attention the supporter gives, the user will stop listening.

“For individuals with severe disabilities, it is crucial for us (supporters) to have a deep understanding. It’s a matter of our predictive abilities – as we engage with them, we learn to anticipate their actions. However, the more severe the disability, the more our abilities and experience become necessary.

The 40-year-old user engaged in what we call ‘trial behavior,’ spreading feces and urine to get the attention of the supporter. But not reacting is crucial – reacting is exactly what the user expects. If we react every time, we wouldn’t be able to handle it. Therefore, to protect ourselves, supporters are required to nullify their emotions.

The woman I mentioned earlier has been here for over a year and is living a very calm life now. There are situations where the user doesn’t act out due to the environment or the words of the support staff.

That’s why it’s the responsibility of the support staff to understand the user’s feelings, figure out how to manage them, and it depends on the competence of the support staff. Without that competence, the scene becomes a living hell.”

This time, the incident in Suita occurred at an After-School and Day Service. However, staff members operating another ‘After-School and Day Service’ reveal the following.

“The biggest issue lies with the facility director who caused the incident this time. Despite claiming to have a team of two, they handled it alone and the incident occurred. Making such promises ultimately led to the incident. In my facility and many others, honestly, allocating two personnel is extremely challenging, and it might not have been feasible. The problem lies in why such a staffing structure was promised, and that’s the issue.”

Violence against a client’s child is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. However, it is also true that there are handicapped children and people with disabilities who have no choice but to leave their children in such facilities.

“Indeed, depending on the facility, rejection based on severity or characteristics may occur. It seems that the Suita facility had many users with relatively severe conditions, and in interviews with parents who entrusted their children to the Suita facility, there were stories like ‘they treated us kindly.’ This may not have been a lie in itself. Since the scene of the assault was captured on a security camera, it might be that it genuinely happened due to emotional factors. Perhaps, the combination of the good aspects and the uncontrollable aspects played a role.”

Assault is out of the question, and it goes without saying that the managers were not well qualified for the job. However, such assaults at facilities for the disabled are just the tip of the iceberg. The long-term care insurance system that came into effect in 2000 relaxed the rules governing entry into the industry, which had previously been severely restricted, and opened the way for for-profit corporations, such as joint stock companies, to enter the market. As a result, many establishments with problems in quality have entered the market, and the potential for this to happen again in the future has become a major problem.

  • Interview and text Miho Nakanishi

    Nonfiction writer and representative of NPO Third Place. Former reporter for a weekly magazine. After receiving twins through fertility treatment, she found out that her second son had a disability. Drawing on her own experiences, she focuses her reporting on assisted reproductive technologies, pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, disabilities, and welfare. He is on Twitter (@thirdplace_npo)

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