Sunday June 4, 2023 – A Japanese court has ordered a woman to pay damages to the wife of the man she accused of sexual assault since their relationship may have breached the country’s civil code.
Meiko Sano filed a lawsuit against her professor for sexual assault after ending a decade-long relationship with him.
Sano in the lawsuit argued that Michio Hayashi, an art history professor of the Department of Liberal Arts at Sophia University, had taken advantage of his position over her to initiate a relationship to which she never consented.
When the relationship began, Sano was 23 and Hayashi was 48, and she accused him of grooming her for sex. Their relationship started out purely academic, but it soon changed as he invited her to more private meetings, which Sano said she felt unable to refuse.
Sano even accompanied Hayashi on a trip to a symposium, where she performed a sexual act that she argued was forced and he claimed was consensual. They continued to meet up at hotels for the following 10 years for sex, along with trips to France, Italy and Spain, before Sano eventually broke off the relationship and filed her lawsuit.
Sano in court papers said that she thought of ending things many times, but she felt obliged and grateful to Hayashi, and at times worried that it would be rude to refuse him.
“I understand that I was way too naïve, and I still hate myself for it,” Sano said. “There were so many times when I could have just said, ‘No,’ and run away.”
In a twist to the story, Hayashi’s wife sued Sano for the relationship since Japan’s civil code counts marital infidelity as a breach of the marriage contract. The wife won around $20,000 in damages, The New York Times reported.
Sano lost her case but won some minor damages to help pay for her own penalty to Hayashi’s wife. In subsequent interviews, she claimed that she knew her lawsuit had little chance of succeeding in Japan, but she had a desire to show the psychological abuse rampant in Japanese society.
Sano herself admitted that because she had no bruises or injuries from the encounters, she didn’t think of herself as a sexually abused victim. Hayashi’s wife said in court filings that she resented her husband for his infidelity, but she refused to believe he had committed any sexual harassment.
Hayashi’s wife accused Sano of “pushing all the responsibility of their relationship onto my husband, as if she is wholeheartedly the victim.” She told Sano, upon learning of the relationship, that if it was not consensual she should have filed a complaint to the university at the start.
Hayashi admitted that he was at fault but only for his infidelity and not for any alleged sexual harassment. “To be addressed as ‘dearest,’ in a message from a student to a professor, there is a familiarity there that is not quite normal,” he argued.
In Hayashi’s case, the university determined that the behavior and relationships at least warranted termination.