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Group helps female Japanese tsunami survivors facing a new hell

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Summary of story from The Japan Times, October 1, 2011

Sendai hand massage is being offered to women in shelters and temporary housing estates in Japan’s worst disaster-struck areas as a form of respite and to give them a chance talk about abuse and domestic issues.

The masseurs are actually members of the women’s aid group, Miyagi-Jonet, originally set up in March 2011 to provide emergency supplies for women.

Their members now consist of lawyers and healthcare specialists trained to deal with women’s issues. They help run massage services and women’s social groups to identify women needing assistance.

“Just a sympathetic ear and sensitive touch can elicit some heartrending revelations,” says Yuko Kusano, cofounder of Miyagi-Jonet, the Miyagi Women’s Rehabilitation Support Network.

“Many women say that no sooner had they begun to recover from the grief of loss and sense of guilt at surviving the traumatic events of March than they are subjected to a new kind of terror, a different kind of hell,” she says.

That hell includes numerous instances of sexual abuse, harassment and even rape, she says.

And the majority of issues reported by women who open up to Jonet volunteers involve abuse at the hands of spouses. While less frequent, incidents of sexual abuse and even rape are also on the rise, she adds.

And despite all the best efforts of Jonet, whose members have increased to around 16 since May, Kusano believes the numbers of women needing help will grow, especially during the fast-approaching colder, darker months.

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