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Study group set up to deal with rise in child abuse

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By Akira Ogawa

Alarmed by a rise in child abuse cases, medical specialists, hospital and public health nurses, and social workers have joined forces to establish a new study body.

The group, named the Japanese Medical Society on Child Abuse and Neglect, or JaMSCAN for short, held a general meeting in Kitakyushu in August to mark its formal establishment in the face of preliminary reports that the number of cases in which the services of a counselor were sought at child guidance centers totaled 42,662 during fiscal 2008, which ended last March.

The number represented a six-fold rise from 10 years ago, indicating instances of child mistreatment have increased year after year.

About 60 people attended the meeting, training their sights on an improvement in the handling of child abuse. They also confirmed they would seek the participation and cooperation of such medical specialists as pediatricians, child psychiatrists, pediatric surgeons, neurosurgeons, obstetricians and gynecologists, radiologists, public health doctors, medical examiners and dentists.

The nonprofit organization Child Maltreatment Prevention Network has taken charge as secretariat of the research society. Experts said the number of notifications of child abuse to child consultation centers from medical institutions totaled about 1,700 in fiscal 2007, accounting for around 4% of the total.

They said that child abuse is overlooked in routine medical examinations and annual medical checkups at school. Those concerned should suspect a child is being mistreated if they find bruises in the child's abdominal area or if the child does not eat much at home.

Fujiko Yamada, director of the CMPN, who specializes in internal medicine, said physicians are strongly inclined to think there is no mistreatment of children when they begin examining them, adding that they are reluctant to harbor such suspicions.

She said one of the objectives of the research society is to get the technology of diagnosing child abuse into wide use and to raise the sensitivity of medical treatment.

The Japan Pediatric Society set up a project team on problems of child mistreatment in 2004 and its arguments that there are limits to involving pediatricians alone in the treatment of child abuse led to the establishment of the research society.

The society hopes to strengthen cooperation with doctors in various fields, including pediatrics, and strive to put together research and prevent child abuse.

Although a revised Organ Transplant Law allows organ donation from children, Yamada said, it is indispensable for doctors to examine the body of a child to determine there was no child abuse before passing judgment on brain death.

She said JaMSCAN is essential for nurturing a special team on child abuse.

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12 Comments
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Oh, yes! A 'study group'. How about forming an 'action group' instead.

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i agree. let`s see some action.

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I am so glad that atleast they have realised the importance of protecting the children. I really really hope that this study leads to some positive work towards the final goal.

I can read that quite a few posters think that NPOs and NGOs are doing good work. My past experience shows otherwise. Anyway, would like to see the good coming out of this organisation and the NPO involved.

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Ah, another job for people to sit around and concentrate on image, not purpose. Reminds me of the "Marriage Research Group" in the drama Konkatsu. basically a room in the basement with one phone and rusted desks. Child abuse, or abuse in general will never cease to exist. There will always be people who lack the chemical composure to act accordingly.

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I wonder if they'd consider banning child porn ? I could take you to several high street shops in Shinjuku and Shibuya tomorrow that are openly selling videos of minors engaged in sexual activities. It is incredibly hard to prevent child abuse while these sorts of materials are available - and it legitamizes child abuse in the eyes of the abusers !

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Well there's abuse and then there's stick-n-twisted abuse that doesn't need any study but action NOW. On the other hand I can also see over reactions like in North America and the some parts of Europe where a WELL deserved spanking lands that parent in jail. Hey, remember before the PC this and PC that, children knew their place. Now, children in NA will just taunt you and say "what are you gonna do"? So kids today get away with murder because it's not PC to punish a child when it really deserves it. Then again, some people should just not be parents. Now, don't go getting all Dr. Spock on me and tell me what's right and wrong.

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Child porn should be attacked, however, having worked in an English Children's Centre for 4 years and with offenders and victims of various kinds for longer I would say following are critical:

Changes in employment patterns and welfare to reduce difficulties for struggling families

More openess about the family stresses and difficulties that can increase the risk of abuse so that people will ask for help

Someone to talk to confidentially about this, and sources of help

More willingness to challenge parents and other professionals when you feel a child is at risk

Educating everybody about what to look for and what to do if a child at risk is identified - but without creating the kind of media-led paranoia that has resulted in the UK in innocent people being murdered through false rumour. A paediatrician was hounded out of her home as this was mistaken by a mob for being the same as 'paedophile!'

Teamwork by everyone involved

Offender programmes which acknowledge both the lack of 'chemical composure' (nice phrase), the fact that it is not unusual for offenders to have been abused themselves, and the need to break the chain of damage being passed down the generations.

However, as in the UK, government finds it easier to spend money on inneffective symbolic surface changes than engaging families, which is more complex and less immediately visible. One example is increasing CCTV and turning schools into prisons - which ruins the feeling of the school, doesn't in most cases remove stranger danger anyway, and ignores the research that repeatedly shows that most abuse is commited by someone in the family.

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This study group is useless. There has been plenty of stories of parents abusing their kids, then taking them to the hospital, and then the hospital calling the cops. This is easy when the parents are "trailer trash" or whatever the Japanese equivalent is, but when they are normal white collar people, then it's a whole nother ball game. When the majority of Japanese women won't call the cops when they themselves have been abused, how do you expect them to call the cops when they suspect abuse of some white collar individual, many times views as having a higher social position than them?

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So the annual medical school checkups check for breast sizes but not for bruises then? Priorities?

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Interesting that abuse is higher but discipline, from my observation is lower and in many cases non existent.

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Multipath: I think you summed it up well. Education, awareness, openess and support are needed if we hope to reduce the number of cases of child abuse. A study group is a good beginning but as others have already stated, immediate action is essential. Otherwise, this cycle of abuse could get worse. Support groups for parents to share their child-rearing problems openly and find solutions would be a great start.

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If they can actually carry out their mandate, then excellent. I'm getting sick of hearing about 'panels' and 'studies' set up as the "middle-man" for dealing with immediate situations. More importantly, I'm sick of people being satisfied with attributing proposed research with results.

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