The Sexual Assault Crisis Healing Intervention Center Osaka (SACHICO) is the first one-stop center in Japan to provide 24-hour care and support for victims of sexual violence. Care-workers, police, and lawyers work together to provide medical and psychological care in one location, allowing for a quick response to incidents, while minimizing the victim's physical and psychological damage. This is the summary of an interview with the representative of the center, Haruko Kato.
How was the SACHICO established?
I have been working as an OB/GYN doctor since 1975, and encountered the issue of sexual violence through my work. I started a study group with doctors such as OB/GYNs, pediatricians, and psychiatrists to discuss what we could do. We came to realize that we needed to create a one-stop center where we could provide comprehensive care for the victims of sexual violence, including medical, legal, and psychological support. In June 2009, we created a network and began preparing for the establishment of SACHICO. The members consisted of 28 doctors, medical law specialists, lawyers, counselors, and grassroots feminist activists. We established the center within the Hannan Chuo Hospital in Osaka in April 2010.
How could you get understanding from the hospital?
This hospital was created with funding from the Dowa laws (laws designed to improve living conditions for the burakumin, Japan's largest minority group). The staff in the hospital tends to have high awareness for human rights and many are interested in medical care for those who are at risk. I think this is why we could create the center within this hospital. There are several merits about having the center within a hospital. A hospital can provide a 24-hour support system. We also needed to be able to provide OB/GYN care. We were open for 24 hours for delivery already, which made the hospital an ideal location. Plus, because it was a hospital, there was a pretty good system for security to provide a safe place for the victims. We could also have the victims receive psychiatric or orthopedic care when necessary. It's also important to note that the hospital created SACHICO in a location separate from the regular OB/GYN office.
Can you explain a bit about the Center itself, such as numbers or services provided?
Within the past year, we received 1463 phone calls. There were 128 women, who came to our center. 78 were raped, 36 experienced other forms of sexual assault, 6 came because of domestic violence, and 8 came for other reasons. We found it extremely important for the center to be open 24 hours a day. Many clients called us or used our service during the night and/or weekends.
Also, 90.4% of clients revisited the center. We think this was partly because the center was separated from the regular OB/GYN office, and we respect the privacy of all those who use our facilities. We can also provide various kinds of care, including abortions and treatments in other departments. We also work with psychiatrists, counselors, lawyers, police, and child protective services.
What were the challenges you faced and goals for the future?
We have accomplished a lot important things, but there are still many things we need to improve. One of the most critical things is to have a larger number of trained staff members. Currently we have 40 staff members, but in order to have a center that is open for 24 hours, we need more people. Second, it is very difficult to run this center with limited resources. We hope to receive public funding for this project. Finally,we would like to be able to work with the police more effectively. There are still police officers who do not understand the seriousness of sexual violence. We hope more and more hospitals will provide the type of service we provide at SACHICO.
Original interview conducted and article written by Sakura Furukubo
Translated and Adapted by Eiko Saeki