Probably LONG LOST in this uncovered mess regarding St. Mary’s deep culture of cover ups and silence (and we hope, by now, reform) is the story’s roots in one woman’s very subtle attempt to call out and de-escalate what seemed to be Sexual Harassment by the Assistant Elementary School Vice Principal, at St. Mary’s, in 2006.
It bears highlighting what’s already been written in the Case Background of this blog, to show the extent of how toxic the particular fragile male ego in question was: in the same breath where he was made to apologize to Ms. Tran, this called-out Middle Manager vowed to retaliate and turn the tables on a woman who only subtly hinted that she’d like for him to just STOP, please. The entire consequence of this case could have been prevented if this guy had a modicum of personal responsibility and humility. Much credit to Brother Michel*, at the time, who at least had the instinct, heart and judgment to see that an (ill-fated) apology to the weaker party would help everyone start over. Oh, but then of course, eventually, the Middle Manager’s campaign to demonize this new teacher worked the top admin over and Ms. Tran was “simply not renewed” 2 years later. Thank goodness for labor laws!
In the recent positive sea-change of attitudes toward women who come forward about being sexually harassed, and about being economically threatened by men and a system designed to keep them quiet, we wanted to highlight this very case you know and love, through this lens. Despite the obviously difficult course of action that the woman in this case chose to take (Ms. Tran did not speak Japanese, nor did she start out understanding how to navigate the country’s judicial system), we wanted to point out that the LAW WORKS, even for foreigners and even for women in Japan. This case, which stemmed from trying to de-escalate Sexual Harassment, may have morphed into power harassment and then an unfair-dismissal case (as it often does for women who “cause trouble”), but the point remains: speaking up about harassment works.
AND we wanted to point out the ENORMOUS cost to the school corporation of, essentially, protecting one man’s fragile ego, and his inability to just accept responsibility and be a better superior. Here are the estimated costs:
Retainer of St. Mary’s legal team: 3 million yen x 4 years = 12 million yen
Miscellaneous court costs (translations, admin and staff time to attend court, mailing of documents): 1 million yen
Settlement with Ms. Tran (confidential): estimated 3 to 8 million yen
Non-enrollment at St. Mary’s due to bad publicity: estimated 10 students x 3 million yen = 30 million yen
Withholding of donations from alumni who want to distance themselves: estimated 1 million
Retainer of that weird PR team to look into Child Rape cases among alumni (that didn’t go anywhere): estimated 500,000 yen
Conservative Estimate Total: about 50 to 60 million yen or at least $500,000 USD (hope it was worth it!). How many SMS Carnivals is that??
The email that started it all (with Japanese translation):
When Ms. Tran started working at the school in August of 2006, it was in the sweaty old building with no air-con. She had a big sweaty male superior giving her daily advice, both useful, and redundant, while being asked to sit knee-to-knee with him and his ripped khaki shorts in his cramped little office; or while pressing himself on her in her classroom whispering in her ear, under the guise of being “confidential”. His gross sweat and cologne caught on her clothes and hair, and would linger in the hot air all day. This went on for weeks, well into the beginning of the school year, when the kids arrived. She knew this Middle Manager had a wife who worked across the hallway, and two sons who had thrived at the school. No need for drama. Here was the email Ms. Tran wrote to him, CC’d to his superior Brother Lawrence (yes, that guy), simply asking for all the advice in writing, to prevent the Middle Manager from having the excuse to approach her one more time physically (yet, allowing him to continue to give advice whether useful or redundant). Ms. Tran was 29 years old, and had lived in Japan for 2 months when she wrote this. Who knew it was a pebble thrown at such a fragile character?? Well, now you know.