Record 37,000 children suspected of being abused in Japan in first half of 2018

Some Japanese blame the rising figure on the pressures of modern life, along with the collapse of the traditional family unit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 10:57pm

A record 37,113 cases of suspected child abuse were reported across Japan in the first half of 2018, including 19 cases that ended in the death of a child, according to statistics released by the National Police Agency.

The first-half figure showed an increase for the seventh consecutive year and was up more than 22 per cent compared to the same period in 2017. It suggests the full-year figure will surpass the record 65,431 cases reported to authorities last year.

A total of 2,127 children were taken into protective custody from situations authorities judged to be life-threatening – up 340 cases from last year and above the 2,000 threshold for the first time.

More than 71 per cent of the cases involved psychological abuse of children, while more than 60 per cent had witnessed parents or guardians being physically abusive towards one another. Some 6,792 children were physically abused, up by 1,069 cases on the previous six-month period, with sexual abuse cases up by 14 to 111.

Many of the children were victims of more than one form of abuse, police said.

The figures have come as a shock to a nation that has traditionally prided itself for the way communities cooperate in caring for their children, with some blaming the pressures of modern life on the worsening statistics, along with the collapse of the traditional family unit.

Technology is destroying the traditional intimate relationships that people used to have with the families
Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in media and communications

“I think that this generation of parents were not taught adequately by their own mothers and fathers about how to act as an adult and a parent, so that lack of knowledge is being carried over into subsequent generations,” said Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in media and communications at Hokkaido Bunkyo University.

“We are often told that the economy is getting better and our society is stronger than before, but I see more parents busier than ever before, parents on their mobile phones and not communicating with their children.

“Technology is destroying the traditional intimate relationships that people used to have with the families. That may not be unique to Japan, but I do think that the problem is more emphasised here because of Japanese people’s love of new gadgets,” Watanabe said.

“When I was a child, I grew up in a community where everyone knew everyone, you knew where to go for help and people looked after each other. That has gone and people who live in big apartment blocks often do not know their next-door neighbours any more.”

Watanabe said Japanese society was “shocked” by the statistics – in particular the steep rise in cases – which coincided with the release of an investigation into the failure of the authorities in Kagawa prefecture to prevent the death of a five-year-old girl in March.

A panel at the ministry of health concluded in the report, released on Wednesday, that a child consultation centre failed to place Yua Funato into protective custody despite being asked to by a medical institution, where she had been treated for bruising and scars that were attributed to her parents’ actions.

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The child told officials she did not want to go home and her mother and stepfather were not cautioned about the child’s mistreatment.

An autopsy on Yua also showed she weighed just 12.2kg when she died and her feet showed signs of frostbite. The girl died of blood poisoning brought on by pneumonia triggered by malnutrition.

The police have also released dozens of notes in Yua’s handwriting, in which she begged her parents for forgiveness for minor transgressions, like being noisy when she played.

Yudai Funato, 33, and his wife 25-year-old Yuri, have been arrested in connection with the girl’s death.