The ever-growing number of child abuse cases — in sharp contrast to many other criminal offenses whose numbers have come down to postwar lows — testifies to the seriousness of the problem despite a series of measures taken over the years to stop the horrific abuse of children. A series of fatal cases that took place over the past few years shows how lack of proper communication and coordination among relevant authorities and poor judgment on the part of child welfare officials continue to fail to save the lives of children who could have been helped. It is imperative that all parties involved in combating the problem place utmost priority on the safety and welfare of the abused children.

The latest edition of the Justice Ministry's white paper on crimes looks back on the criminal trend over the past 30 years of the Heisei Era (1989 to 2019). The overall number of Penal Code offenses handled annually by police nationwide hit a postwar peak of 2.85 million in 2002, but has since kept falling, to a postwar low of 810,000 in 2018. Likewise, the number of murder cases, which topped 1,400 in 2003, declined to 895 last year — the lowest on record since the end of World War II.

In contrast, the number of cases in which the police launched criminal proceedings over child abuse rose by more than six-fold from 212 in 2003 to 1,380 in 2018. Similarly, the number of domestic violence crimes — which is closely linked to child abuse since men who behave violently to their spouses or partners tend to abuse their children, and women suffering from the violence of husbands or boyfriends often fail to stop or even join in the abuse of their children — rose from 689 in 1989 to 8,299 last year.