Since 2004, November has been designated the month when central and local governments and nongovernmental organizations campaign for prevention of child abuse. Extending support at the local community level will be important to help parents as well as children.

The police investigated 157 cases of child abuse in the first half of this year, 3.1 percent fewer than a year before, and took action against 165 people, the same number as a year before. Eleven children died of abuse, a drop of 62.1 percent.

But the situation is more severe than the figures suggest. In fiscal 2008, child consultation centers nationwide were contacted with regard to 42,664 cases of child abuse — a record number. It is believed the number of actual cases is several times that.

A welfare ministry survey shows that 78 children died of abuse from Jan. 1, 2007, to March 31, 2008. If the children who were killed or were forced to kill themselves by parents who committed suicide are included, the number climbs to 142. An association of child consultation centers says about 2 percent of abused children were at risk of losing their lives. Both the public and private sectors need to seriously tackle the problem.

Attention should be paid to the fact that more than half of those who commit child abuse are the natural mothers of the victims. It is reported that various factors such as economic difficulties, unstable employment, stress of a mother-child household, isolation from neighbors and a bad relationship with a husband are contributing factors in a mother’s abuse of her children. Many abusive mothers often lack knowledge about how to raise children.

The association says that about 30 percent of parents who committed serious child abuse wanted some form of help. Budgetary measures are needed to provide improved child welfare facilities and more child welfare specialists. Support measures to help parents become economically stable and establish contacts with neighbors are indispensable. A 24-hour telephone service (0570-064-000), which opened Oct. 1 and automatically refers a caller to the nearest child consultation center, is expected to be of great help.

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