/

Record 28,923 children suspected of being abused in 2014

Kyodo

Police reported a record 28,923 minors to child welfare authorities as suspected victims of abuse in 2014, an increase of 33.9 percent from the year before, the National Police Agency said on Thursday.

The total includes 2,034 who were given police protection at night or in emergency situations where officers thought the child’s life was threatened, up 9.6 percent.

An NPA official attributed the increases to “heightened awareness about child abuse” that helped more people report suspected abuse cases to the police. The agency started collecting these statistics in 2004.

Under provisions in the child abuse prevention law, the police report suspected abuse cases to child consultation centers. By law, anyone under the age of 18 is a minor.

The centers provide temporary shelter to children, or visit families with children suspected of being abused, with the aim of keeping such problems from worsening.

More than half the reported children were victims of psychological abuse, including verbal attacks. They made up 17,158 of the total, up 39 percent, the agency said.

Physical abuse was suspected for 7,690 children, up 25 percent, while 177 children were suspected of being subjected to sexual violence, up 18.8 percent.

Of the psychological abuse cases, 11,699 were believed to be witnesses of domestic violence such as spousal abuse, up 44.8 percent, the NPA said.

Last year, police took action in 698 child abuse cases, involving 719 suspected abusers and 708 victims.

The numbers represented a surge of nearly 50 percent from the previous year and were the highest since the agency began gathering statistics on the matter in 1999. Of the victims, 20 children died, compared with 25 in 2013.

The agency also said police acted on a record 1,828 cases involving the production or distribution of child pornography last year, up 11.2 percent from the previous year. The number of the victims involved in these cases totaled a record 746, up 15.5 percent.