Nearly 160,000 child abuse cases were handled by child consultation centers nationwide in fiscal 2018, marking a new high due to a rise in psychological abuse reports, the health ministry’s preliminary data showed Thursday.
The number of cases increased 26,072 from a year earlier to 159,850, up for the 28th straight year since comparable data became available in fiscal 1990.
Psychological abuse, including witnessing acts of domestic violence and verbal abuse, accounted for 55.3 percent of the total, or 88,389 cases, up 16,192 from the previous year.
The increasing number of reports is attributed to a wider awareness among the public that psychological mistreatment, such as allowing a child to witness acts of domestic violence, can also be considered child abuse.
Alarmed by a rise in child abuse cases, Japan will implement laws in April next year to ban parents and guardians from physically punishing children.
In the year to March, physical abuse cases rose 7,033 from the previous year to 40,256, accounting for 25.2 percent of the total, followed by 29,474 cases of neglect, or 18.4 percent, and 1,731 accounts of sexual abuse, or 1.1 percent.
Of the total reports made in fiscal 2018, 13,095 were made by the police, while 4,467 were from neighbors.
The ministry also said Thursday that officials failed to meet the state guideline of checking the safety of a child within 48 hours of a suspected abuse report in 11,984 cases between July 2018 and June this year, which accounted for 7.8 percent of the 153,571 total cases during that period.
The survey on responses within 48 hours was conducted after the death of 2-year-old Kotori Ikeda in Sapporo in June despite a child welfare official interviewing her mother last year following a tip and a police officer meeting with the mother and the girl in mid-May.
Officials had visited Ikeda’s residence within 48 hours after an initial report was made in September last year, but they did not do so following a second report in April as the case was considered to be low priority. Kotori’s mother and her boyfriend were arrested in June on suspicion of assaulting the child.
By prefecture, Osaka saw the highest reported number of child abuse cases in fiscal 2018 at 20,694, followed by Kanagawa and Tokyo with 17,272 and 16,967, respectively. Tottori ranked lowest among all 47 prefectures with 80 reported cases.