Saudi parents urged to warn children against sexual abuse

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Children who are victims of sexual abuse are often afraid to tell their parents because they feel ashamed and may even think it is their fault.

Sexual abuse can have long-term and damaging effects on a victim’s mental and emotional health and prevent them from trusting others, which is why experts urge parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse.

There were virtually no studies conducted on child abuse until 1920, when such cases began increasing. By 1968, at least 44 countries enacted legislation that obliges doctors to notify authorities of sexual abuse involving children, according to report in Al-Riyadh newspaper.

In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report that stressed the importance of combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Studies have shown that between 15 and 25 percent of women, and 5 and 15 percent of men have been subjected to sexual abuse as children.

Nearly 30 percent of offenders are close relatives, 60 percent a close family friend and only 10 percent are strangers. Victims of sexual abuse can suffer from both short term and long term psychological, emotional and bodily damage that can lead to mental fatigue, low self-esteem, learning difficulties, behavioral problems and alcohol or drug abuse.

In the event a child reveals he or she was sexually abused, parents should be understanding and comforting and should not hold their child responsible.

In such cases, children are in need of emotional support and should be taken to a physician or a psychiatrist. Parents should also notify the concerned authorities so the offender does not target other children.

Children should not be left alone with domestic workers or drivers and should be told to scream when they feel uncomfortable with anyone approaching them.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on July 5, 2014.