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Reports of child abuse up 22.6% for first half of 2018 compared to same period in 2017

(Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A total of 37,113 children under the age of 18 suspected to have been abused by a parent or other person were reported to child consultation centers by police across Japan during the first six months of 2018, up 22.6 percent from the same period last year, the National Police Agency (NPA) announced on Oct. 4.

The number is the highest since half-year figures began to be recorded in 2011, and the seventh consecutive year that the total has increased. The NPA posits that the main reason behind the spike in reports is due to "heightened social awareness of child abuse that leads to more people alerting the police."

Of the types of abuse handled in the cases, 26,415 instances were that of "psychological abuse" such as verbal attacks and discrimination, making up 70 percent of the total and up 23.4 percent from the same January-to-June period in 2017. Out of these cases, over 60 percent, or 16,869 instances, involved children witnessing domestic violence between spouses or partners. This number also increased by 21.7 percent from the same period of the previous year.

In addition, 6,792 children were suspected victims of physical abuse, up 18.7 percent, 3,795 were not given food or otherwise subjected to suspected neglect, up 25 percent, and 111 children were sexually abused, also a 14.4 percent increase from January through June 2017.

Cases where parents or other guardians were either arrested, had documents sent to prosecutors or were otherwise exposed for their actions were also at an all-time high of 641 cases -- up 25.4 percent. Of these incidents, 80 percent constituted physical abuse, as psychological abuse is hard to uncover. The number of such cases handled by authorities stood at only 1.9 percent, or 12 cases.

The number of children who fell victim to cases in which perpetrators were arrested or were sent to prosecutors was a record 645 individuals -- 24.3 percent more than the first part of 2017 -- and 19 children aged 10 or younger died, including those murdered immediately after birth or forced into double suicide.

In hopes of uncovering and preventing child abuse, police all over the country are stepping up efforts to share information with child consultation centers. In emergency measures put into place by the government after the death of Yua Funato at age 5 in Tokyo's Meguro Ward, it concretely outlines that police and the centers must share information when external injuries, sexual abuse or neglect are confirmed; when a center cannot confirm the safety of a child within 48 hours of a report; and when children under protective custody are returned to their guardians.

These measures also explicitly stated that if parents or guardians refuse to meet with center personnel attempting to confirm the status of a child or threaten staff, then the center must seek the support of police. According to the NPA, since the measures were established in July, the number of requests for police assistance has increased.

The NPA also instructed police nationwide in April 2016 to share information about cases with child consultation centers and municipal governments, even when the situation has yet to be confirmed as a case of abuse. In the first half of 2018, police shared information other than reports of abuse concerning a total of 14,869 cases -- a 49.4 percent increase from the first half of the previous year.

(Japanese original by Toshiaki Uchihashi, City News Department)

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