A record-high 37,020 minors aged under 18 were sent to child welfare authorities as suspected victims of child abuse in 2015, up 28.0 percent from the previous year, police reported Thursday.
The same report compiled by the National Police Agency also said the number of children under 18 who have become victims of child pornography in Japan rose to a record-high 905 in 2015, up 159 from the year before.
The total includes 2,624 minors who were given police protection at night or in emergency situations where the police thought the children were facing a threat to their lives, up for the third straight year.
An agency official traced the increases to “heightened awareness about child abuse” that prompted more people to report suspected abuse cases to police. The agency started collecting statistics on the issue in 2004.
The police report suspected abuse cases to child consultation centers in accordance with provisions of the child abuse prevention law. The centers provide temporary shelter to children or dispatch staff to families with potentially abused children as a way to keep problems from worsening.
More than half the children — 24,159, or more than 60 percent of the total — were victims of psychological abuse including verbal violence, the agency said.
Regarding child pornography, most of the victims were girls, with about 40 percent having been tricked or coerced into photographing themselves naked, according to the report.
The number of investigated child pornography cases totaled 1,938, up 110 from the previous year and a record-high. This included possession of pornographic images that became punishable last year under a revised law to protect children from sexual exploitation.
Facing criticism over its loose regulations compared with other industrialized nations, Japan began punishing the production of child pornography through the use of spy cameras in July 2014 and the possession of child pornography for the purpose of satisfying sexual curiosity in July 2015.
In 2015, police investigated 1,063 cases of producing child pornography, of which 110 involved spy cameras. Seventeen cases were investigated in connection with the simple possession of pornographic images.
Most of the victims were either junior high school or high school students, but the youngest victim was an 8-month-old boy who was photographed by a male babysitter, according to the report.
Among the 144 victims under the age of 13, some 45 percent were victims of rape or molestation.
The police have collected data on child pornography since 2000.
In separate data released the same day, the NPA said it confirmed 2,051 cases of unauthorized computer system access in 2015, down 1,494 from the year before and marking the first decrease since 2012.
The police attributed the fall to a sharp drop in spoofing, including cases in which an account on the mobile messaging app Line was taken over by an unknown person. After many users saw their accounts stolen, Line Corp. stepped up cybersecurity measures.