The number of suspected victims of child abuse leapt by a fifth in 2017 to exceed 60,000 for the first time, National Police Agency statistics revealed on March 8.

The sharp rise is believed to be a result of increased public awareness of the various forms of the problem.

Police around Japan reported 65,431 minors younger than 18 to local child consultation centers in 2017 on suspicion of being abused, an increase of 20.7 percent.

The new high continues the pattern of annual increases seen since the statistics started being gathered in 2004.

An agency official said a factor in the substantial increase is “the rise of reported numbers (from third parties) to police, as public awareness of child abuse has increased.”

The number of children that police removed from their guardians’ custody for fear of their lives, or other harm, has been also increasing year by year, reaching a record high of 3,838 cases in 2017.

About 70 percent of all suspected cases were victims of “psychological abuse,” including use of abusive language. That cohort increased by 24.9 percent from the previous year.

Over 60 percent of suspected psychological abuse victims, or 30,085 children, were categorized as being subject to “seeing domestic violence” such as witnessing a parent beating another, an increase of 20.3 percent.

Victims of suspected violent physical abuse numbered 12,343, an increase of 10.6 percent. Child neglect victims, including not being fed properly, totaled 6,398, up 13.7 percent.

The number of suspected sexual abuse victims was 251, unchanged from the year before.

There were 1,138 incidents that became criminal cases including family suicide-murders and killings of newborns, an increase of 5.3 percent, and also a record.

Nearly 80 percent of the criminal cases involved physical abuse. Cases involving psychological abuse, such as children witnessing domestic violence, were harder to criminalize and remained at 3.9 percent of the total.

The number of child abuse victims who became a part of criminal investigations was 1,168, another record high, an increase of 5.4 percent.

Of those 58 children were killed, including in forced family suicides.