x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

New Dubai unit to tackle child sex abuse

The arrest of three men accused of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl underlines the need for Dubai Police's new child protection unit, according to a senior officer.

DUBAI // The arrest of three men accused of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl underlines the need for Dubai Police's new child protection unit, a senior officer said yesterday.

The unit was established at the beginning of the month and the case highlighted its importance, said Major General Khamis al Mazeina, deputy head of Dubai Police.

Four officers are overseeing the unit before it expands to include psychologists. "These police officers have received training on how to handle such cases. Dealing with victims - or investigating cases where children are suspected of sexual assault - requires special treatment," Maj Gen al Mazeina said.

A bus driver, a cleaner and an attendant at a private school in Dubai were arrested last week after the four-year-old girl was sexually assaulted on her school bus.

Investigating officers say the three took advantage of the girl being the last to be dropped off at home after school.

Her mother suspected that the child might have been subjected to a sexual assault, and took her for a medical examination. Doctors confirmed her suspicions.

The incident is believed to have taken place in November but the child's parents reported it last week.

Maj Gen al Mazeina yesterday called on the public not to hesitate in reporting such cases. "Keeping quiet is a crime in itself, and people should report them regardless of the conservative nature of the society," he said. "Not doing so means the perpetrators can repeat their offences or escape justice."

Many cases of child sex abuse go unreported because families are not willing to talk about such crimes in public, experts say.

Ruba Tabari, an educational psychologist at Dubai Community Health Centre, told a forum on child protection last week that people tend to stay silent on such matters.

"I came across a situation not too long ago where a primary school child was raped by an older school boy on the bus," she said. "When I spoke to the teachers who were aware of it, they seemed unperturbed. They were like, 'Oh, it happens, it happens in their homes, this is how they are'. This is not how they are. This is not right."

In a statement to parents yesterday the school attended by the four-year-old said that, at their request, the bus company had decided to introduce extra safety precautions, including cameras in all its buses.

The managing director of the bus company said: "We were planning to install cameras in all our buses, and in light of this incident we think it is necessary to look at these measures immediately."

He also said that all available evidence had been handed over to police. The case has been referred to public prosecutors.

Maj Gen al Mazeina said the new child protection unit would also examine cases of sexual abuse between children. The unit will follow up on reported cases and analyse them to identify motives and patterns.

Findings will be submitted to the Dubai Police chief and his deputy to help them to develop preventive measures.

Maj Gen al Mazeina said sexual assault of children was rare and the unit had not been established as the result of a trend.