Japanese police reported a record-high 30,262 children as suspected abuse victims to welfare authorities in the first half of 2017, on the back of increased public awareness of the issue, the National Police Agency said Thursday.
The number of minors aged below 18 reported by police to child consultation centers rose 5,751 from a year earlier, exceeding the 30,000 mark for the first time since comparable data became available in 2011.
The police offered emergency protection to 1,787 children in the January-June period due to threats to their lives, up 236 from a year earlier.
An agency official attributed the rise to heightened awareness among citizens that prompted more people to report child abuse cases. The child consultation centers provide temporary shelter to children or dispatch staff to families with potentially abused children as a way to keep problems from getting worse.
The number of minors who suffered from psychological abuse including verbal violence accounted for 70.7 percent of the total at 21,406. Among them, the number of children witnessing acts of domestic violence within their families saw more than a fivefold increase to 13,859 from the first half of 2012.
The figure for physical abuse stood at 5,723, accounting for 18.9 percent, neglect at 3,036, or 10.0 percent, and sexual abuse at 97, or 0.3 percent.
Child victims in criminal cases stood at 519, of which 27 died. Of the 519, 273 were girls and sexual abuse victims accounted for 26.0 percent of them.
The police launched criminal investigations in 511 cases, down 17 from a year earlier, with physical abuse comprising 411 cases.
The cases involved 528 suspected perpetrators, of whom 72 were investigated for sexual abuse. Among the sexual abuse suspects, 26 were the victims’ fathers, 27 adoptive fathers or stepfathers and eight common-law husbands of the victims’ mothers.
Meanwhile, the police also said they probed a record 1,142 child pornography cases in the January-June period, up 123 from a year before.
The number of child pornography productions increased 106 cases from a year earlier to 724. Provision and displays of pornography such as sharing of images among pedophiles stood at 387 cases, and possession of such images at 31.
An increasing number of girls were tricked into taking naked photos of themselves with their smartphones and sending them to perpetrators, the police said.
Among 594 victims of child pornography, cases involving images taken by victims themselves accounted for 44.3 percent, followed by rapes and indecent assaults at 14.1 percent, child prostitution at 13.3 percent and secret filming at 11.1 percent.
Many children sent their own nude photos through community websites where they could get to know unspecified users. Of the total victims, 85.9 percent sent their images to unknown men who often pretended to be girls or friends of the same age as the victims.
“Once images spread on the internet, it is difficult to erase them. Never send personal information including photos to people you have become acquainted with through community websites,” an agency official said.