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Over 70% of child-on-child sexual assaults in Japan's care homes are same-sex abuse: study

Yoji Endo, center, head of the "Kobe Jidokan Seiboryoku Kenkyukai" study group, who works as a professor at Kansai University of Welfare Sciences, announces the results of the group's analysis in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Jan. 27, 2020. (Mainichi/Sumire

TOKYO -- More than 70% of the 308 cases of sexual violence between children at foster care facilities recorded in a recent study involved same-sex abuse, research by a citizens group consisting of those working at such institutions shows.

Experts have pointed out that such incidents may be caused by factors other than sexual urges, and are stressing the need to grasp the actual situation and take preventative measures.

The "Kobe Jidokan Seiboryoku Kenkyukai" (Kobe child-on-child sexual assault study group) announced the figures in a Jan. 27 seminar held in Tokyo. From October 2018 to May 2019, the group analyzed cases of sexual abuse recorded over the past 10 years by 21 child welfare institutions across Japan that agreed to share data.

Of the 308 cases, 62% involved sexual violence between boys, 8.8% between girls and 27.3% boy-on-girl. About 40% of the victims were under the age of 9.

Group head Yoji Endo, a professor at the Kansai University of Welfare Sciences in the western Japan prefecture of Hyogo, commented, "Child-on-child sexual abuse is not just triggered by sexual urges, but can be used as a tool by older kids and children with physical strength to dominate other children. There have also been cases where victims became perpetrators when they became older."

Shuhei Yamaguchi, vice director of "Ichinomiya Gakuen," a foster care facility based in Chiba Prefecture east of Tokyo, said, "Many of the children are abused before they enter (the institutions). Some also lack self-esteem, and cannot tell the difference between comfort and discomfort. It's important to help them realize that they are important."

The study group plans to conduct more research and analysis, and create a handbook covering a list of measures for prevention and early detection of such abuse, as well as how to deal with new cases.

Sexual abuse between children at foster care institutions came to light after the Mie Prefectural Government disclosed documents on the matter in a civil suit, and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare carried out its first fact-finding survey last year. But as institutions are not required under the Child Welfare Act to report cases of child-on-child sexual abuse to local governments if they deal with the incidents themselves, there is a strong criticism that the actual situation is not fully understood.

(Japanese original by Sumire Kunieda, Integrated Digital News Center)

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