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Kanagawa experts to establish group providing unified support for abused children

YOKOHAMA -- Lawyers, doctors and other experts in Kanagawa Prefecture are advancing preparations to establish a one-stop nonprofit organization providing support for child abuse victims in this prefectural capital south of Tokyo.

Such experts say efforts to support children through extensive cooperation among relevant bodies are rare. They aim to start operation of the child support facility, the Kanagawa Kodomo Shien Center Tsunaggu, from next fiscal year.

Cooperation among child consultation centers, police, schools, hospitals and other relevant organizations has become an issue concerning child abuse cases. Tsunaggu will mediate communication and arrangements between each organization and victim for unified support such as sharing information on the abused child. It will also provide necessary assistance including medical care and litigation and legal support for the victim.

Experts are mulling a program designed to teach abuse detecting skills like forensic interviews and complete physical examinations. Victims often face emotional strain as they are interviewed by consultation centers, police and other organizations, respectively, to describe the circumstances of their abuse. To reduce stress, forensic interviewers will collectively elicit information from children, which will then be shared among relevant bodies and used as legal evidence. A specialist will conduct a full-body examination on victims to see the entire picture of abuse to provide efficient care.

At the same time, experts will research the use of such skills, as they are not widely conducted in Japan.

They are also mulling support for parents in order to deal with cases in which the mother also suffered from domestic violence. A veterinary physician will also work together for the introduction of therapy dogs that will assist victims when they give testimony in court.

Lawyer Kei Hida and Koji Tanoue, a doctor from Kanagawa Children's Medical Center, will become Tsunaggu's representative directors. They have both made efforts to support abused children. Hida stated, "We hope to cooperate with all related organizations so abused children do not have to suffer."

(Japanese original by Ai Kunimoto, Yokohama Bureau)

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