The Orphan Care Department in the Eastern Province organized recently a lecture for foster families entitled “Sexual Harassment and Adolescence” to inform parents about the importance of protecting children from sexual harassment.
The event took place on the premises of the Directorate General for Social Affairs in Dammam in the presence of 75 foster families.
Many papers were presented on the issue including a study conducted byWafa Mahmoud, assistant professor at King Saud University, who revealed that there was a high percentage of cases involving children being sexually abused. She pointed out that one out of every four children experienced sexual harassment.
Another study by Munera Abdulrahman showed that 49.23 percent of sexually abused children are aged 14 or below.
|Dammam, Saudi Arabia|
In other words, one in four might be a serious underestimate.
Al-Ouda explained that the main reason for the occurrence of child sexual abuse is the silence and the complacency of the family, particularly the mother. “The mother needs to play a more active role in monitoring drivers, housekeepers, and ensure that their children dress modestly. Some mothers don’t mind sending children to corner stores, or with a relative, or letting them sleep with male members of the family, including the father,” she said.
Al-Ouda recommended maintaining self-control after the occurrence of a sexual abuse case and refraining from blaming the child. “A child needs support and a feeling of being safe,” she said, adding parents should not resort to self-blame but keep in mind the real aggressor who needs to be punished.
Al-Ouda also called for believing in what the child says and building trust in parents’ relationships with their children. “The more the parents trust the child’s story, the more accurate details they will be able to get from the child,” she underscored.
She also advised parents to teach children to seek other sources of support. “If parents fear that they will lose control over their emotions, they need to take the help of a social guidance specialist,” she said.
Reflecting on the ways to avoid sexual harassment, Al-Ouda said: “Get your children into the habit of reading verses from the Qur’an and help them to share an open relationship with you where they don’t fear telling you about themselves.”
She also urged schools to carry out their responsibilities to society by developing educational programs to raise children’s awareness of sexual harassment in school and other places.
She urged school authorities and parents to provide their children with self-defense skills, good thinking skills and the numbers of the nearest police station.
This is a modest but hopeful start to addressing CSA in Saudi Arabia. Admitting that it is a big problem and talking about it openly is great. Perhaps in a generation they will overcome the social taboos associated with sex abuse.