Saudi Arabia: New Body to Monitor Domestic Violence in Saudi Arabia

Arab News
The Committee of Social Protection has launched a drive to create awareness among health workers about domestic violence and child abuse.
The Committee of Social Protection — a new organization consisting of various government departments acting in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs — has launched a drive to create awareness among health workers about domestic violence and child abuse.
As part of the awareness campaign, health professionals working in private and governmental health facilities in Jeddah are being trained to look for signs of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and child negligence.

“We are not just focusing on abuse but child negligence as well. For example, there was a child who was admitted to hospital three to four times with the same injuries. It was obvious that there was negligence,” said Dr. Nawaf Al-Herthy, who is chairman of the committee’s Jeddah branch and director of the Jeddah Psychiatric Hospital.

“We are working together with the police, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice and various other government bodies. We have sent a team to every health care facility in Jeddah to train health professionals and create awareness among the general public,” said Dr. Al-Herthy.

“One of the members from each team has direct contact with us who can immediately report cases,” Al-Herthy said. He said alleged cases of abuse were sometimes found to be baseless. “For example, there was a woman who wanted something from her family. When they didn’t listen to her she threatened to report that they were abusing her when in fact there was no abuse,” he said.

“That’s why we thoroughly investigate cases, which include psychological assessment by psychiatrists and psychologists at the Jeddah Psychiatric Hospital. We don’t want the organization to be used for any reason other than protecting victims. For example in child custody cases, a parent may falsely accuse the other parent of abusing the child,” he added.

Al-Herthy said the organization is in contact with the head of the government department of each city where the organization has a presence to provide help in even the most complicated cases.

“Presently, there are no statistics about the number of cases of family abuse, because of an absence of proper documentation and because most victims, such as wives and daughters, are too afraid to report abuse. But now they have a place to go for help,” he said.

He added that women and girls who are abused by relatives keep it secret and do not ask for help openly. He said that in such cases, doctors are trained to identify cases of abuse and read body language.

6 September 2008

Source: Arab News