January 29, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo by Wakana Arakaki
Chatan – After a woman was killed by a U.S. soldier in the Kuwae neighborhood of Chatan, Okinawa in April of 2019, Okinawa Prefecture opened a counseling service called “Solution Center Ayumu) January 5 in Chatan Town Hall, for the benefit of women who are facing domestic issues or relationship problems with members of the U.S. military. It is the first public counseling service that specializes in issues with the U.S. military.
In the 2019 incident, a sailor from the U.S. Navy killed a Chatan woman who he at one point had a relationship with, after which he committed suicide. American and Japanese investigators were aware of issues in the relationship, but were unable to stop the murder. After the incident, there was public outcry for the establishment of a public point of contact where people could for counseling and to help resolve issues with U.S. military personnel.
The office is targeted towards people living in Okinawa who are experiencing issues with U.S. military personnel stationed in Okinawa. The office has a pair of support staff for issues such as: 1) marriage, divorce, and relationship issues, 2) acknowledgement of paternity 3) child support, and 4) domestic violence. It also offers services such as accompanying women to talk with military personnel, contacting military offices, and appearing in place of women who come for assistance.
The office’s budget for 2020 was 9 million yen, and the forecast for 2021 is 10 million yen. Okinawa Prefecture has entrusted the Okinawa Single Parents and Children’s Welfare Association (Okiboren) with managing the counseling office. However, since a matching counseling service has not been set up by the U.S. military, and there is a need for someone well versed in private law as well as knowledgeable about the situation inside the bases, the overall operations will be supported by Women’s Pride representative Misaki Smith, who has been counseling international households in Okinawa for many years.
The counseling office asks for making appointments in advance. They can be reached weekdays from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at 080 (7980) 4291.
(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)