Oral Argument in a Civil Suit against the Japanese Catholic Church to Be Heard on Tuesday
The first oral argument in a lawsuit filed against the Catholic Church in Japan will be heard on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, at 10 AM in the Sendai District Court. We sincerely hope that the plaintiff’s position will be heard and upheld by the judge.
Japan Volunteer SNAP Leader Harumi Suzuki filed a lawsuit in late September against the Diocese of Sendai. Harumi’s attorney, Yuma Sato, seeks 56.1 million yen ($534,000) in damages from the Diocese.
According to Harumi’s complaint, she was a victim of domestic violence in 1977 and turned to her Catholic priest for help. Instead, she was raped during a counseling session. As a result, Harumi suffered from depression for years.
In 2016, Harumi reported the rape to the Diocese. An investigation by third-party lawyers was ordered by Catholic officials, and the inquiry found that the sexual act likely occurred but could not determine if it was rape or consensual sex. The priest denied the allegations and Harumi has consistently maintained that there was no consent. The Sendai Diocese then declined to take any further action or to compensate Harumi for her injuries.
Japan's current justice system makes it very difficult to collect damages for sexual abuse unless a claim is brought within a few years of the injury. However, we know that it can take many years for a survivor to come forward when they are abused by a trusted clergyman.
We hope that Harumi will be successful in her pursuit of justice. But we are sure that because of her courage the case will inform Japanese society about the problems in the Catholic Church, and will inspire other abuse survivors to speak up and begin healing.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)