Riyadh-A recent study conducted in Saudi Arabia revealed that children between the ages of 6 and 10 are the most likely victims of sexual abuse, with 23% of this age group suffering from indecent advances. The percentage decreases as children grow older, with 20% of 11 to 15 year old and 13% of 16 to 18 year olds likely to experience abuse. In turn, 3% children, aged 5 and less, are sexually abused in the Kingdom.
The study conducted by Dr. Ali bin Hassan al Zohrani, a specialist in Psychiatry at the Ministry of Health, sampled of university students and individuals across Saudi Arabia and obtained the results by post. The analysis of the responses shows that abusers belong to the networks of family, friends and teachers. Dr. al Zohrani confirmed the study was accurate and unique in its field, as families are usually silent on the subject. A child, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, is a person under the age of 18, unless national law states a different limit for maturity. An abuser, on the other hand, is an individual older than the victim and, in most cases, closely related to him/her.
Abuse can manifest itself in a variety of ways, usually either through persuasion, sweet-talking, caressing and the buying of presents, or threats and intimidation, including violence.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Abdullah al Hariri, most of the patients he sees at his clinic have been the victims of sexual abuse in their childhood. Many suffer feelings of guilt and self- blame for not resisting their abusers. As a result, they lose confidence in themselves, their families, and society in general. In some cases, the victims can become abusers in their own right and assault others, as a kind of retaliation. One six year old girl, al Hariri said, was repeatedly abused by the dark-skinned family chauffeur, developed a fear of dark- skinned individuals and rejected the idea of marriage and intimacy with a man.
Lack of sexual awareness is one reason why children in Saudi Arabia have to endure such terrible experiences. In al Hariri’s opinion, families need to increase awareness in their children as they grow older. Efforts in the Kingdom’s schools have to accompany family education.
Economic factors can also be to blame, for example when members of a single family sleep, in crammed conditions, in a single room. In other instances, parents leave their children for long periods, unsupervised, with domestic servants. This gives children the chance to practice sexually deviant behavior with others.
With regard to solutions, al Hariri proposes that children be introduced to notions of sexuality in a frank and decent manner, starting with simple information and increasing in complexity as children grow older. Parents also need to closely observe their children during playtime, especially in private, as they might innocently want to imitate adults. Al Hariri also warns parents not to use sexually arousing words or phrases around their children and advises mothers to avoid touching their children’s genitals.
Children need the love and affection of their parents to feel confident and at ease. Parent- Child relationships shouldn’t be based on fear, but, instead, on dialogue. This, al Hariri believes, will ensure honesty between family members, protect children from fear, and ensure they have a healthy life, physically, physiologically, and sexually.