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Editorial: Japan needs system to protect victims from psychological abuse at home

Domestic violence from spouses and partners is not limited to physical abuse. The question of how to deal with psychological abuse is also emerging as an issue.

    A government panel compiled an interim report on revisions to Japan's domestic violence prevention law. The main pillar of the envisaged measures is making it possible for courts to issue protection orders to keep perpetrators of psychological domestic abuse away from victims.

    Psychological domestic violence, also known as moral harassment, includes being verbally abusive, ignoring the other person, restricting relationships with a person's parents or friends, and throwing away items that are important to them, among other treatment. Such actions can deeply hurt the victim and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Close to 60% of consultations fielded in fiscal 2020 by a service desk set up by the Cabinet Office involved psychological abuse, while around 30% were related to physical violence.

    When a protection order is issued, the perpetrator is banned from following the victim around for a set period, and may even be ordered to leave their home. There are also penalties.

    The scope of current laws, however, is limited to physical violence and other such acts. It is only natural for measures to be extended to cover psychological abuse as well.

    Legal revisions must be implemented in a way that is workable.

    The question of how to prove psychological violence is an issue. Even with physical violence, it takes 12 days on average until a protection order is issued, and it is possible that such measures could take a longer time with psychological violence.

    There were over 190,000 domestic violence consultations nationwide in fiscal 2020, up 1.6 times from the previous year. The effects of stress building up due to the coronavirus crisis and people spending more time at home have been pointed out as factors behind this trend.

    The domestic violence prevention law has been revised four times in the past but countermeasures have not managed to keep up.

    A study found that nearly half of victims had not talked to anyone else about the abusive treatment. Japan needs to provide a system under which it is easy for people to open up.

    Efforts to protect victims and provide physical and mental care, along with comprehensive support to help them rebuild their lives, are required. Collaboration between public institutions and private shelters also needs to be strengthened.

    In order to wipe out domestic violence, it is also important to approach the perpetrators. A program to that end has just come under consideration.

    In order to protect victims without fail, Japan swiftly needs to prepare a system corresponding to the current state of affairs.

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