x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Domestic violence victims 'fear to speak out'

Data from the UAE did not form part of the WHO report and the levels of sexual violence here can be difficult to detect, according to a clinical psychologist at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.

Data from the UAE did not form part of the WHO report and the levels of sexual violence here can be difficult to detect, according to a clinical psychologist at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.

"Media plays a very important role," Anita Sunil Kumar said. "One 50-year-old lady approached us and said that for six years she had been debating whether it was domestic violence and whether she was suffering, or if this was just part of her life. She was unaware that this was emotional abuse."

Speaking to The National earlier this year, Ms Kumar said a fear of losing family or children and of facing tough questions from the police also stopped some women from seeking help.

"They think, 'what are the consequences if I approach someone for help?' It's the fear that's attached," Ms Kumar said. "The minute social, psychological and legal support is offered, most of the victims can talk more about it. They start confiding in you."

According to the foundation's 2011 annual report, the latest available, 56 per cent of the women who sought help that year were victims of domestic violence.

The foundation uses this term to define women subjected to abuse by a spouse or a member of the same household, which includes maids abused by their employers.

There are no national figures for the scale of domestic violence within Emirati or expatriate populations. A study from Sharjah in May, which looked at 640 victims of abuse across the country, showed that Emirati women were more likely to suffer verbal abuse that physical or sexual abuse.