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"When a suspect is black and from the military, people here assume he must be guilty," says Annette Eddie-Callagain, an African-American lawyer. "Meanwhile, whenever something happens, the rest of us think, Oh, please, don't let him be black." Eddie-Callagain and two Japanese lawyers represent Woodland, who has pleaded not guilty and argues that the sex was consensual. Eddie-Callagain admits the politically charged atmosphere and the Japanese judicial system stack the odds against her client. "Here you're guilty until proved innocent," says Eddie-Callagain, who returned to Okinawa in 1995 to set up an independent practice after leaving the Air Force. "In Japan the criminal-justice system is run by prosecutors," she says. "Defense lawyers are just bystanders."
Though prosecutors here don't discuss cases before or during trial, their strongest evidence appears to be that Woodland admits to having sex with the woman. But in Japan, winning a rape case is never a cinch--particularly for a woman who admits to having an active sex life, which can scuttle her credibility. "The defendant's lawyer can use the number of a victim's sexual partners as evidence," says Yukiko Tsunoda, a lawyer in Shizuoka. "To win a rape case, a plaintiff often must prove violence, a threat to her life, and that she resisted with all her might."
Because of her presumed lifestyle, the woman who accuses Woodland has taken a beating in the court of public opinion. In late July she sent a letter to the media begging reporters to stop hounding her and her friends. "There is victim bashing both in the press and by the public," says Suzuyo Takazato, founder of the Rape Emergency Intervention Counseling Center in Okinawa and an Okinawan assemblywoman. Makiko Tanaka, Japan's female Foreign Minister, is reported to have said to colleagues there must have been "something wrong with the girl, going out so late at night." Old-fashioned attitudes impose shame and blame on the victim. Studies say this limits the number of rapes reported to the police to between 1% and 10% of the actual incidents.
If the public is unsympathetic to the woman, her amejo and kokujo peers are downright harsh. Some gossip that the victim dated the defendant; others speculate that her friends shamed her into calling it a rape. "We amejo feel the girl was in the wrong," says Maki Oshiro, 27, sitting in a semicircular booth at a hip-hop club called Else, one of a number of spots frequented by black U.S. servicemen. "She probably didn't know how to behave. We're here because we know it's where the Americans gather. These guys aren't scary. We know how to handle them." She mentions an English woman murdered last summer outside Tokyo; a Japanese businessman is being held on murder charges. "See? Japanese guys can be scarier."
The amejo and kokujo agree that the incident has brought unwanted critical attention to them and their habits. "Amejo is a derogatory term, isn't it?" says Hitomi Murayama, 24. "It's just another way for mainland Japanese to look down on Okinawa. They don't understand that we Okinawans are naturally friendly and outgoing--and that includes toward American servicemen."
The U.S. military establishment knew it couldn't plunk a herd of young men down in a foreign locale and expect them to act like saints. Yasutaka Oshiro, a sociology professor at Okinawa International University, has researched the history of the entertainment districts around the U.S. bases. "The zones were created by U.S. officials following World War II to counter the problem of U.S. troops raping local women with abandon," he explains. Poor unmarried local girls were corralled into prostitution. The sex market in a town called Koza outside the gates of Kadena Air Force Base roared during the Vietnam War, when thousands of troops bivouacked in Okinawa on their way to and from the war zone. The trade has simmered down, but new arrivals on base are still initiated at a Koza bar featuring live sex on stage.