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Police suspect a record 65,431 minors were abused in Japan in 2017

Kyodo

Police reported the suspected abuse of a record-high 65,431 minors, aged under 18, to child welfare authorities in 2017, with a rise in psychological abuse contributing to the overall increase, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The figure was up 20.7 percent, marking a rise for the 13th consecutive year and eclipsing the 60,000 mark for the first time since comparable data became available in 2004 — when police reported the suspected abuse of 962 children.

Police protection was offered last year to 3,838 children, up for the fifth straight year, mainly in emergency situations that were deemed to be life-threatening. An agency official put the increase down to “heightened social awareness” among citizens.

Police refer suspected abuse cases to child consultation centers, which provide children with temporary shelter or dispatch staff to their homes.

The number of children suspected to have suffered from psychological abuse rose 24.9 percent to 46,439, accounting for 71 percent of the total. Of them, 30,085 witnessed domestic spousal violence, which is classified as a form of psychological abuse, or behaviors directed at the child such as abusive language.

Physical abuse was suspected in the cases of 12,343 children, up 10.6 percent; neglect for 6,398 children, up 13.7 percent; and sexual abuse for 251 children, unchanged from 2016.

The police took law enforcement actions in 1,138 cases, involving 1,176 abusers and 1,168 victims — figures that are each records in their own right.

Among the victims 58 children aged below 17 died, including those killed by parents committing suicide. The figure has declined over the long term as more abuses have been reported before serious consequences developed.

Biological fathers accounted for the highest number of abusers, at 488, followed by biological mothers, at 304. For sexual abuse, stepfathers or adoptive fathers topped the list of abusers at 68.

In a separate file released Thursday, police reported a record 2,413 child pornography cases in 2017 with many involving children tricked into sending nude selfies to perpetrators they met online. The police took action against a record 1,703 perpetrators, up for the fourth consecutive year, with girls falling prey in most of the cases.

The production of child pornography accounted for more than half of the total, at 1,414 cases, while the provision and public display of illegal photos by pedophiles stood at 798. The possession of nude images nearly tripled, to 201 cases. The biggest proportion of cases, at 42.4 percent, involved children coerced or tricked into sending nude selfies taken with smartphones. Sixteen percent involved child prostitution, 14.4 percent photographing or filming with hidden cameras and 11.7 percent rape or indecent assault.

“Once (images) spread online, it is extremely difficult to delete them completely. We have to take measures to protect children, who will lead the next generation,” Hachiro Okonogi, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, told a news conference.

Among nude selfie cases, 80.2 percent of children had never met the perpetrators with many of the victims approached through chat rooms and online communities. Friends or acquaintances accounted for 11.3 percent of the abusers, and current and ex-boyfriends or girlfriends 7.4 percent.

An agency official advised caution, saying that “perpetrators might be disguising themselves as children of the same generation when they are communicating online.”

Most of the 1,216 victims identified were girls, with high school students accounting for 39.2 percent, junior high school students 36.3 percent, elementary school pupils 18.7 percent and preschoolers 3 percent, according to the report.

By region Kanagawa Prefecture topped the list, with 239 cases, followed by 190 cases in Tokyo, 182 cases in Aichi Prefecture, and 129 cases in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Shimane Prefecture had the fewest number of child porn cases with six, while eight were reported in Yamanashi Prefecture.