Orange Ribbon Relay to Prevent Child Abuse - Honorary Director's Blog



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Orange Ribbon Relay to Prevent Child Abuse

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has designated November as Child Abuse Prevention Month. In addition to holding forums on child abuse prevention throughout Japan, it is promoting campaigns and activities among concerned organizations and institutions.

The Children's Rainbow Center, a public-private partnership organization for the research of issues related to child abuse where I am director, took part in these activities. On November 8, Sunday, the Orange Ribbon Relay Race was held, and on November 23, Monday and a national holiday, a lecture on "Preventing Child Abuse through Manga" by Atsuko Shiina and discussion were held. In this message, I would like to introduce the Orange Ribbon relay and how it addresses the growing problem of child abuse.

The government is taking the initiative in this effort to prevent child abuse. Indeed, the situation has become so critical that it has become necessary. Child abuse cases by parents, in particular, mothers, have increased dramatically, and statistics indicate the child deaths resulting from abuse, including parent-child suicides, now number seven cases per month.*

According to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, cases of child abuse rose from 1,101 in 1990 to 42,664 in 2008, a forty-fold increase within an eighteen-year period. These figures are a general index of child abuse, based on verifiable cases that were handled by child guidance centers nationwide. Research indicates, however, that these numbers represent approximately two-thirds of the actual number of cases, which underscores the seriousness of the problem.

Child abuse, of course, existed in the past, but today it occurs in the context of a materially wealthy society and thus appears to differ from the child abuse of the past that was associated with poverty. Of course, even amid prosperity, poverty can be a factor, depending on the abusive parent and family. But, apart from a certain kind of neglect, child abuse today does not generally involve starvation and hunger. According to pediatrics textbooks, child abuse began to appear in the 1950s in the United States, which had won World War II without experiencing warfare on its soil. Pediatricians in Japan began seeing child abuse cases from the end of the 1960s when postwar recovery led to economic growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, most people today are not fully aware of this problem of child abuse. And this was the reason for the national campaign that took place in November every year.

In the Orange Ribbon Relay, the runners pass orange sashes to the next runner at each stage of the race. This relay was held for the third time this year. The Tokyo relay started from the Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Hall and the Shonan relay began in Oiso, the starting point of the Shonan International Marathon, with both relays finishing at the Nippon Maru Memorial Park in the Minato Mirai district in Yokohama. This time, volunteers made small orange ribbons, and at the start line and each broadcasting spot where various events were held, about 5,000 of these ribbons made by volunteers were handed out to spectators.

As I was given the honor of serving as chairman of organizing committee, I ran the last several hundred meters with the Shonan relay group and was allowed to be the first over the finish line. The Tokyo relay course was a bit behind schedule, so I could not run with that group, but it was a fabulous finish. The total number of runners was 126: 71 in the Tokyo relay and 55 in the Shonan relay.

The orange ribbons were originally made by Kangaroo OYAMA, an organization engaged in child abuse prevention in Oyama, Tochigi prefecture, but unfortunately, still have not become popular. When I saw an employee at famous hotel wearing a similar ribbon, I automatically asked if it was part of the Child Abuse Prevention Campaign, but was told that the pink ribbon was a symbol of the campaign against breast cancer. I think with more creative planning, the orange ribbon could also become a well-known symbol.

A number of events were held during the Child Abuse Prevention month of November and meetings of citizen's groups that mourn deaths by child abuse and support life are sponsored by the NPO Child Abuse Prevention National Network every year. Some of these events are unbearably sad, such as the candlelight services to pray for children who have died because of abuse.

I am happy to note, however, that Orange Ribbon Relays were also held this year in Gifu and Yamaguchi. I hope that these relays will become even more popular, leading to greater interest throughout society in the problem of child abuse, so that it will one day cease to exist altogether.

* Source: See the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare site for reports in Japanese and figures on deaths resulting from child abuse.