AT least 25 cases of alleged child sex abuse have been referred to prosecutors since the start of last month, it has emerged.
The staggering figure covers the first 46 days of the year alone and equates to more than one case every two days.
Public Prosecution Services social worker Fatima Faqeehi told the GDN that most of the victims were young boys.
'There are more boys aged between nine and 12 among the abused than girls,' Ms Faqeehi said.
Bahrain is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago with Bahrain Island, the largest land mass, at 55 km (34 mi) long by 18 km (11 mi) wide. Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway. The population is around 1.2 million, about half of whom are non-nationals - Wikipedia.
A total of 25 cases were received as of February 15 and Ms Faqeehi, who has worked in Child Prosecution Services since 2007, said the number of cases was on the rise. She is one of two social workers employed by the department and personally handled more than 30 cases last year.
All cases of child abuse, including those in which adults are the offenders, go through Child Prosecution Services because staff are specially trained to interview juvenile victims.
Ms Faqeehi explained that boys were the most common victims because they were easier targets for sexual predators.
'In the case of a boy, the physical evidence of the crime often remains hidden, unlike in the case of a girl,' explained Ms Faqeehi.
She added that in most cases the abuse takes place within the family. 'In most of these cases family members '“ usually fathers, uncles and brothers '“ are involved,' she said.
'We receive cases which are reported by the parents, while others are reported by the children themselves.'
An outreach programme, featuring school visits by Child Prosecution Services social workers and awareness programmes for groups of 30 to 40 children, is currently underway in Bahrain.
Ms Faqeehi said the initiative had paid off and victims had come forward as a result. 'Children who come to us are those who have benefited from our outreach and programmes in schools,' she said.
'I had a 10-year-old boy coming to me and telling me that he had heard me at his school, where they were told to open up to social workers in case they had faced any sexual abuse. 'I felt proud and happy and count that as a big success of our efforts.
'Most of the time boys in adolescence find it difficult to share, or accept that they were abused. 'For some it is a matter of shame, while others feel that they are weak.'
The outreach programme has even been rolled out to kindergartens. 'We conduct these programmes in kindergartens targeting children aged between three and five years,' said Ms Faqeehi.
'We use more pictures showing them how to be protective about their private body parts. 'Pictures which say 'do not allow unknown people to touch you', especially private body parts, help children understand what we are trying to tell them.'
She added that the feedback from teachers and parents had been positive. 'It is difficult to accept that these sessions will make sense to such small children, but they do and parents tell us that,' said Ms Faqeehi. 'They become more aware of the need to change clothes in private.
'We also hold sessions for parents and teachers, especially mothers. We tell them how not to allow strangers to change diapers of their children.'
The expert said signs of abuse included depression in victims, who might refuse to go to school or attend family gatherings.
However, she added that child victims of abuse were more comfortable sharing their experience with female social workers '“ who also try to get parents, especially mothers, involved.
'We don't find any problem getting the girls and boys to open up with us, though sometimes they might take some time to do that,' said Ms Faqeehi. 'Some boys are shy, but we assure them that we are there to help and even cover our faces so that they feel at ease.
'In the case of girls, it is often more traumatic as there are cases of girls as young as 14 years old getting pregnant '“ and that too from within the family.
'Some other heartbreaking cases involve minors who can't remember or recollect who abused them.'