The number of serious sex offenses in Japan in 2022 grew sharply from the previous year, with cases of forced intercourse climbing 19.3 percent to 1,656, government data showed.

The number of sexual assault cases involving violence or threats rose 9.9 percent to 4,708, according to the data released Thursday by the National Police Agency.

The number of rapes and other types of sexual assault increased for the second straight year.

A police official attributed the rise to growing awareness about what constitutes a sex crime and the development of a dedicated system to accept reports and consultations.

The Japanese government has set up support centers in all prefectures to offer consultations to victims of sex crimes and violence to provide assistance such as helping them undergo examinations and counseling at obstetricians and gynecologists and reporting incidents to police and lawyers.

The centers said the number of consultations in fiscal 2021 ended last March climbed 14.9 percent from the previous year to 58,771.

The total number of criminal offenses in Japan in 2022 increased 5.9 percent to 601,389, marking the first expansion in 20 years, according to provisional figures released by the agency.

Among them, six serious crimes, including murder and sex-related offenses, grew 8.1 percent to 9,536 cases, with the number of cases of forced intercourse rising to a record high since a 2017 revision in the criminal law changed the definition of the crime and strengthened penalties.

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