In Japan, the concept of family is deeply rooted in cultural tradition. A heightened sense of loyalty pervades Japanese culture, where individuals are committed to prioritizing their family’s interest and bear the responsibility of their actions having a direct impact on their family name. Unfortunately, domestic violence has been steadily rising over the past 16 years, tearing Japanese families apart in profound ways. And, as issues of domestic violence are seldom openly discussed, it is very difficult for victims and those who are at risk to seek support.
Women’s Net Saya Saya (WNSS) advocates for the rights of women and their children in Japan who have experienced domestic violence. The circumstances surrounding these instances are highly traumatic for the victims and can take lengthy periods of assistance to overcome. Compounding the challenge are the close familial ties present in Japanese culture that could deepen the social repercussions of divorce, with wives and mothers often finding it difficult to rebound economically and socially. With Japan ranked 110 of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 gender equality rankings, the battle uphill can be a long one for victims driven into desperate circumstances.
WNSS confronts the problem from multiple angles for a lasting, positive impact—addressing the emotional, social, and sometimes financial needs of victims of domestic violence. The organization runs programs including foster homes, an employment program, psychological health programs, various workshops for women and youth, home-visit programs, and more.
In 2020, WNSS adapted some of its programs to cope with the global emergence of the COVID-19 virus. With many working from home due to social distancing mandates, the long hours and close quarters saw a spike of domestic violence cases in Japan. To make matters worse, victims could no longer leave their homes to seek help.
In response, WNSS launched a series of phone-in consultation services so that victims could continue to receive the moral support and advice needed as they were faced with the compounded trauma of domestic violence and a global pandemic. The lines are open six hours a day on Monday as well as Wednesday through Friday and are staffed by professional counselors.
The organization also began a food delivery service to support program participants isolating at home. While the beneficiaries of WNSS vary widely in their life circumstances—some married, others divorced, others in foster homes, many with children—the stress of quarantine is a pressure that is felt universally. By delivering food to program participants, WNSS is able to alleviate some of that tension in their lives and enable them to focus on wellness and recovery.
Organizations like WNSS understand that not everyone is impacted by domestic violence in the same way. They understand that it takes time to bounce back emotionally and physically, and that some need more help than others. With a culturally sensitive and varied set of programs designed to support women and children in need, WNSS becomes a stepping stone to a better future for its beneficiaries, even in the darkest of times.