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Reported child abuse in Japan exceeds 30,000 cases in the first half

Kyodo

Reports of suspected child abuse has reached a record high of 30,262 cases to welfare authorities in the first half of 2017, exceeding the 30,000 mark for the first time since comparable data became available in 2011, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The number of victims below age 18 reported by police to child consultation centers rose 5,751 from a year earlier amid increased public awareness of the issue.

The police offered emergency protection to 1,787 children due to endangerment from January to June, up 236 from a year earlier.

The increase in reported cases may be due to heightened public awareness that prompts more people to alert authorities to potential child abuse, an agency official said. The child consultation centers provide temporary shelter to children or dispatch welfare staff to look into suspected cases of abuse as a way to keep problems from getting worse.

The number of minors who suffered from psychological and verbal abuse accounted for 70.7 percent of the total at 21,406. Among them, the number of children witnessing acts of domestic violence within their homes saw more than a fivefold increase to 13,859 from the first half of 2012.

The figure for physical abuse stood at 5,723, neglect at 3,036, and sexual abuse at 97.

Child victims in criminal cases stood at 519, including 27 deaths. Girls accounted for 273 criminal cases, of which 26.0 percent involved sexual abuse.

The police launched criminal investigations in 511 cases, down 17 from a year earlier, with physical abuse making up 411 cases.

The police identified 528 suspected perpetrators, including 72 investigated for sexual abuse. Among the sexual abuse suspects, 26 were the victims’ fathers, 27 adoptive fathers or stepfathers and eight common-law husbands of the victims’ mothers.

The police also said they probed a record 1,142 child pornography cases in the January-June period, up 123 from a year before.

The number of child pornography productions increased by 106 cases from a year earlier to 724. Distribution and sharing of child pornography stood at 387 cases, and possession of such images at 31.

An increasing number of girls were tricked into taking naked or explicit selfies and sending them to perpetrators, the police said.

Among 594 victims of child pornography, cases involving self-portraits accounted for 44.3 percent, followed by rapes and indecent assaults at 14.1 percent, child prostitution at 13.3 percent and secret filming at 11.1 percent.

Many children posted their own nude photos to online community websites where they could be viewed by unidentified users. Of the total victims, 85.9 percent sent their images to unknown men who often pretended to be girls or friends of the same age as the victims.

“Once images spread on the internet, it is difficult to erase them. Never send personal information including photos to people you have become acquainted with through community websites,” an agency official said.