x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Help on hand for UAE sex assault victims who fear reporting crime

Members of a Dubai women's rights group are offering to help victims of sexual assaults who are afraid to make a police report.

DUBAI // Members of a Filipino women's rights group are offering to help victims of sexual assaults who are afraid to make a police report.

Dr Mohammed Murad Abdullah, director of the Dubai Police decision-making support centre, told a conference on violence against women last week that a recent police study found only 9.5 per cent of sexual assault victims reported the crimes.

Women were far more likely to go to the police if they had been the victim of a severe assault (80 per cent) or a threat (50 per cent).

"We are saddened by this study but it's really true," said Melca Perez, the chairwoman of Gabriela UAE. "Many sex-related incidents are not being reported by women.

"It's due to a lack of knowledge and awareness about women's rights, and how these women should defend their rights."

At least two sexual assault cases have been handled by Gabriela this year. One was a rape, and the victim did not report it to police.

"[She] only asked to be sent home," Ms Perez said. "The rape victim's child was one year old."

Many domestic workers do not have the courage to go to the police, said Kristie Mae Templa, the group's secretary-general.

"We've handled some cases when officials at Philippine consulate had been unable to assist them," she said. "Maids are believed to attract the sexual advances of their employers and end up being blamed for it."

On November 25, Gabriela - the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action - was officially launched in Dubai to provide counselling to Filipinas, particularly victims of sexual abuse.

It has 55 members. The group has been active in the Philippines since March 1984 with branches in the US, Hong Kong, Japan and The Netherlands, among other countries.

Since last year, Gabriela has held a series of sessions for housemaids and office workers about violence against women.

It has an ongoing campaign: "I vow to fight VAW [violence against women]" to raise public awareness and inform women about their worth and role in society.

"We can teach them about the forms of violence against women and how these could be prevented," Ms Perez said.

Information talks will discuss rape and incest, sexual harassment, violence against women and children, sex trafficking, prostitution and white slavery, and sexual discrimination at the workplace.

For help, contact Gabriela on 0508831483 or 0552202559, email gabrielauae@googlemail.com or search on Facebook "Gabriela - UAE".

rruiz@thenational.ae