Widespread abuse of disabled in Japan

JAPAN - The health ministry has confirmed that more than 1,500 disabled people were abused, most of them by relatives, in the six months through March this year.

Local governments nationwide received reports or were consulted over a total of 4,502 cases of allged abuse against disabled people in the six months after a law to prevent abuse of the disabled came into effect in October last year. Of this number, abuse was confirmed to have occurred in 1,524 cases involving 1,699 victims, according to the first such survey ever conducted by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The survey found that more than 80 per cent of the 1,524 cases involved abuse by relatives of the disabled people. Three victims died as a result of the abuse they suffered.

The survey was conducted among the local governments of 1,742 municipalities and of all 47 prefectures. The ministry surveyed the number of consultations received by local governments and of the reports made to their offices, as well as how local governments handled the cases during the six-month period.

Of the 1,524 cases of confirmed abuse, 86 per cent, or 1,311, involved abuse by relatives or people taking care of disabled individuals, 5 per cent by workers at welfare facilities and 9 per cent by employers.

About 65 per cent of the disabled who were abused by their relatives or other people close to them were women. Of all the abused people, 49 per cent had learning disabilities and 36 per cent had emotional handicaps.

According to the survey, 60 per cent of the cases of abuse by relatives or others close to the victims was physical in nature, while 35 per cent was psychological, mainly through verbal abuse.

Twenty-seven per cent of the cases involved economic abuse, such as refusing to give a victim their pension money. In more than 80 per cent of the cases, the victims were living with their abusers.

Workers at welfare facilities abused the disabled in 80 cases, victimizing 176 people. Fifty-eight per cent of these people were physically abused, and 53 per cent were psychologically abused.