x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Domestic violence research needed

More research is needed to determine the scope of the problem of domestic violence in the country, experts in the field say.

DUBAI // Domestic violence extends to every emirate, but much more research is needed to determine how widespread the problem really is, social workers say. However, studying the subject is a difficult task in itself, experts said at a seminar for social workers convened by the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children. "More studies are needed into domestic violence," said Dr Shamma al Falasy, an assistant professor at UAE University's department of social work. "Especially as it is to do with the family, it is difficult to just go and knock on doors and ask about their problems." Dr al Falasy said she mostly encounters cases of psychological and physical abuse; sexual abuse is less commonly reported in the Emirates than elsewhere in the world, which she attributed to taboos about the subject. "The volume of my cases of domestic violence is increasing," she said. "Women have to act and not be silent. I encourage more women to come and ask for help, because that's what we are here for." Participants also discussed the need to educate social workers on how best to identify and support victims of abuse. According to Afra al Basti, the chief executive of the foundation, a clearer national picture of the prevalence of domestic violence can emerge as statistics are compiled over the next three or four years. "Unfortunately, domestic violence is spread Emirates-wide," she said. "We currently don't have figures; the cases we have examined are just a small sample." Dr al Falasy said she was one of only two Emiratis holding doctorates in social work. More Emirati social workers were needed, she said, as was better co-ordination among organisations and individuals working in the field - one of the workshop's aims. Khadeeja Othman, who was among the participants and works at a school in Dubai, said a more open discussion of domestic violence was necessary to encourage victims to come forward. "You can notice if the child is very shy, or refusing to be active or maybe a case coming from the school nurse," she said. "More people need to know about domestic violence because children are speechless and might not know what is normal and what is not." The issue of child abuse came under the spotlight recently after a nine-year-old Emirati girl was abused by her father and stepmother. She was visited in hospital by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who spoke out against the issue. The girl's father and stepmother were sentenced to 10 years in jail, reduced on appeal to seven. zconstantine@thenational.ae