Domestic abuse remains one of the more insidious and difficult crimes to tackle. Behind closed doors, the bruises and abuse that should be reported often are met only by silence.
Fear of retribution by a spouse or family member, shame and, in the case of children, sheer dependence on adults often prohibits the involvement of authorities.
These barriers are slowly coming down in the Emirates, however, as awareness campaigns and police training have encouraged people to come forward. As we reported yesterday, a female police officer training initiative launched by the Dubai Police goes a step further in combatting such crimes.
The programme will train 27 women to investigate domestic abuse cases, adding a welcome new dimension to law enforcement not least in community policing terms. Particularly in cases of extreme abuse, victims may be more willing talk to and confide in police officers who are women.
If the programme is successful, it could serve as a model for the rest of the country combatting what used to be a traditionally taboo subject. More than 100 cases of abuses were reported in Dubai last year, signalling not only a systemic problem but increased policing. Not only in Dubai, but across the country, the problem of domestic abuse needs to be dealt with in a public manner free from stigma.
While statistics reveal that Asian and Arab families filed the most cases, it is important to keep in mind that abuse is blind when it comes to demographics. It does not only happen to certain segments of society or in certain countries; it is not endemic to rural environment as opposed to urban settings; and it is not a product of - although it can be fuelled by - alcohol and drug abuse.
Abuse can happen to anyone, and it takes many forms. While far more work needs to be done in terms of legislation, prosecution and awareness, specially trained female police officers add another pillar of support for victims of this ugly crime.