There is an appalling history of U.S. military violence against girls and women in Okinawa and Japan since World War II. While specific cultural and historical circumstances have shaped this phenomenon in particular ways, it exists within the context of broader issues, including:
• the history of U.S. military violence against girls and women in other societies and locations;
• violence against women within the U.S. armed forces; and
• militarization and violence against women as an expression of colonialism, imperialism, and war around the world.
Events in the past two decades demonstrate the crisis that U.S. military violence against women has caused in Japan. In 1995, the gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by American military personnel sparked large demonstrations in Okinawa; 85,000 took to the streets, protesting the U.S. military presence there. In 2008, officials placed a U.S. marine under arrest for the kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old girl in Okinawa. Although the charges were dropped when the victim decided she did not want to go through the trauma of a trial, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Japan to issue a formal apology and quell the diplomatic fire that resulted. The international press reported some of the high profile cases and local reactions, but media and governmental attention to this chronic problem has often been superficial and intermittent, triggered only by the most outrageous incidents. Since the U.S. established military bases in Japan after World War II, the sexual assault of local girls and women by U.S. military personnel has continued to diminish America’s world standing and embarrass the Japanese authorities who have supported the U.S. military presence on their soil.
This is a collaborative project designed to deepen and broaden understandings of the relationships between U.S. militarism, foreign policy, imperialism, racism, sexism, and violence against girls and women. The project brings together the collaborators’ knowledge of United States military culture, historical narratives, stories of victimization, and analysis of the strategies used by Japanese activists to raise public awareness and prevent further crimes against girls and women. These activists and organizers, particularly Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence (OWAAMV), who view the U.S. military presence as a threat to local and regional security and happiness, are now making common cause with organizers in the Philippines and Korea who harbor similar concerns, and with feminists in the United States who have long fought for justice for victims of sex crimes.
The project will facilitate collaboration of student and faculty researchers and an independent scholar and lawyer, U.S. Army Reserves Colonel Ann Wright (retired), whose efforts on behalf of victims of military sexual assault are widely recognized. We hope to document the stories of Japanese women who have suffered assault at the hands of American military personnel, chronicle the work of activists, and investigate the efforts (or lack of effort) on the part of the U.S. military and Japanese officials to address, prevent, punish, or contain such violence.