Record 37,000 children suspected to have suffered abuse in Japan
Japanese police referred to child welfare authorities a record-high 37,113 suspected victims of child abuse in the first half of this year, a report released Thursday showed.
The preliminary figure marks an increase of 6,851 children aged 17 or younger being affected, as compared to the same period last year, according to the National Police Agency.
The agency believes the figures do not necessarily indicate there is an increase in abuse, generally, but rather that people are reporting more suspected cases to authorities amid heightened public awareness.
Police say the increased reporting has allowed them to intervene in potentially dangerous situations earlier.
The problem came into stark relief in March when Yua Funato, 5, died in Tokyo after being beaten and neglected by her parents. The girl had reportedly begged her parents to stop their mistreatment.
The case sent shockwaves through Japanese society when it was revealed Funato had recorded messages pleading for forgiveness in a notebook, all while her parents allegedly underfed her in order to keep the young girl "slim like a model." The girl was also allegedly woken at 4 a.m. every day to practice writing and to carry out other tasks.
Following her death, the government compiled emergency measures to tackle child abuse, including a plan to employ an additional 2,000 child welfare staff nationwide by fiscal 2022, up from the 3,253 employed as of April last year.
"I understand that abuse leaves a serious impact on children's mind and body," said Junzo Yamamoto, the new head of the National Public Safety Commission, at a press conference, adding he intends to instruct police to promote measures to help abused children nationwide.
The latest report showed police also removed 2,127 children from their homes in the six months through June, deeming that their lives had been threatened, while forwarding to government child consultation centers 14,869 abuse reports that they could not immediately confirm, according to the report.
Of the 37,113 total minors affected, roughly 70 percent, or 26,415, were suspected of having been subject to psychological abuse, including 16,869 who had personally witnessed domestic violence.
A total of 6,792 victims were suspected to have suffered physical abuse, 3,795 neglect, and 111 were thought to have been raped or forced into some other form of violent sexual activity, the report showed.
The number of child pornography cases handled by police rose to a record high 1,423 in the first half of 2018, up 281, with the number of cases of possession of illegal materials growing and cases of people allegedly making explicit content involving children reducing.
The number of child porn possession cases stood at 393, surging from 31 the previous year, after police obtained a list of some 7,000 people who purchased child porn DVDs last year, while cases involving people making child porn fell 38 to 686.
Some 615 children were victimized in child pornography cases in total, up 21, with high school students 38.0 percent of the total, followed by 34.5 percent junior high school students and 22.4 percent elementary school students, according to the agency.
Cases of victims being lured into taking and sending nude images of themselves using mobile phones were most common at 39.0 percent, followed by hidden cameras filming victims at 25.4 percent and child prostitution at 15.0 percent.
About 90 percent of victims of nude image-sharing were high school students and junior high school students, it showed.