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More than 80,000 suspected child abuse cases reported by police in 2018: NPA survey

Participants in a campaign against child abuse and domestic violence, organized jointly by local governments and police, show off flags with slogans in the northern Japan city of Akita on Nov. 3, 2018. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Takano)

TOKYO -- The number of children in suspected abuse cases reported by police to child consultation centers nationwide in 2018 topped 80,000 for the first time since data collection began in 2004, a survey by the National Police Agency (NPA) has found.

According to the NPA, there were 80,104 children aged below 18 who were reported to child consultation centers by police for alleged abuse by their parents or others last year, up 22.4 percent from 2017 and marking the 14th consecutive year-on-year increase.

"With child abuse becoming a growing public concern, the number of reports to police and consultations with them increased, resulting in the rising number of police notifications to child consultation centers," said an NPA representative. Police tend to be alerted to suspected abuse cases through reports from local residents after they hear children crying or parents yelling, among other cases.

By type of abuse, 57,326 children were subjected to psychological abuse, such as verbal threats or ignoring children's appeals, up 23.4 percent from 2017 and forming the largest group at around 70 percent. This was followed by physical abuse of 14,821 children, up 20.1 percent from a year earlier, and neglect such as not providing sufficient food of 7,699 children, up 20.3 percent. As many as 258 children were subjected to sexual abuse, up 2.8 percent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, there were a record 1,355 cases in which parents or other offenders were arrested or referred to prosecutors over criminal abuse cases in 2018, up 19.1 percent from a year earlier. The cases included murder-suicides and killings of newborn babies. While physical abuse accounted for about 80 percent of those criminal cases, psychological abuse -- which is relatively difficult to detect due to the absence of external injuries -- comprised just 2.5 percent.

In many cases, child consultation centers and local governments learn about child abuse cases before sharing the information with police. In the case of the death of Mia Kurihara, a 10-year-old girl in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, over which her parents were arrested, the Noda Police Station began to share a list of children in need of protection from April 2018, including Mia. The police station is a member of a city council tasked with taking measures for such children. However, no reports or relevant information suggesting her case could possibly develop into a criminal one were reportedly filed during the nine months prior to her death.

(Japanese original by Toshiaki Uchihashi, City News Department, and Mayumi Nobuta, Chiba Bureau)

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