Photo/IllutrationA child consultation center in Nagasaki handles not only abuse cases but also issues involving child delinquency and child rearing.(Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Criminal procedures were taken in a record high 641 cases of child abuse in the first half of 2018, up 130 from the same period last year, the National Police Agency said Oct. 4.

Among the 645 abused children under the age of 18 in these cases, 19 of them died. The number of abuse victims increased by 24.3 percent from the same period last year.

In 516 cases, or 80 percent of the total, the parents or guardians were accused of physical abuse, including murder, inflicting injuries and assault, while 15 cases involved neglect.

In only 12 cases, or 1.9 percent, the children suffered psychological abuse, according to the NPA.

Proving psychological abuse is a much more difficult task than finding evidence of physical abuse, according to investigators.

But psychological abuse was cited in 70 percent of the record high 37,113 suspected child abuse cases that police referred to child consultation centers across Japan in the first half of this year.

The overall figure, up by more than 20 percent, was the seventh straight increase for the first six months of a year since 2011, when the NPA started compiling half-year statistics.

The total number of suspected victims for all of last year was 65,000, also a record. The figure will likely surpass 70,000 this year.

“The rise in the number of reports and consultations (from third parties) to police stems from the increase in public awareness of child abuse,” an NPA official said.

The 26,415 victims of suspected psychological abuse in the first half was up 5,009 from the corresponding period last year.

Among them, 16,869, or just over 60 percent, had witnessed domestic violence in their households. Other suspected cases involved psychological damage caused by verbal abuse, according to the NPA.

Among the other suspected cases, 6,792 children were physically abused, 3,795 suffered from neglect, and 111 were sexually abused, the NPA said.

The NPA also said the number of criminal cases involving child pornography reached a record high of 1,423 in the first half of this year, up 281 from the year earlier.

The revised Law Banning Child Prostitution and Child Pornography took effect in 2014 to impose harsher penalties on violators.

The number of criminal cases involving child pornography hit an annual record of 2,413 last year.