The beating of a 4-year-old boy last Christmas Eve went on through the night. Covered with bruises and having suffered catastrophic internal bleeding, he was pronounced dead at an Osaka hospital. Soon after, his mother and her two boyfriends were arrested.

While the news of the child's death sparked outrage and horror in the media, Orie Ikeda, a single mother of two, says she can understand how such a brutal assault occurred in Minoh, the affluent dormitory town near where she lives.

"It could have been me," she said quietly. "I didn't abuse my children only because I was lucky."