Muscat: Almost half of all child abuse cases received by Oman’s Child Protection Committee in the first three months of 2017 came from the Muscat governorate, according to an official at the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD).
“With the launch of the child protection hotline earlier this year, the number of child abuse cases reached 91 during the first quarter of this year,” Shams Al Hajri, director of the Family Protection Department, said.
“Data shows that Muscat governorate had the most reports on child abuse at 46, followed by the South Batinah governorate with 12 cases, due to the high percentage of population in both these governorates,” she added.
Statistical data provided by the ministry showed that the Child Protection Committee has dealt with 39 cases of neglect out of 91 cases.
Her Highness Sayyida Basma Al Said, founder of the Whispers of Serenity Clinic for Mental Health, is recognised for her active efforts in raising awareness about mental health in the Arab region. She has 11 years of experience working at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, where she was part of a national team to combat child abuse.
“Child abuse is a problem, just like it is a problem in any other country. Child abuse is everywhere in the world and has been around for centuries and since the beginning of time. We do have a problem, but it is being tackled as much as it can be.”
“There is individual effort, there is government effort, but we still need more, of course. We are still lacking awareness, and that is what is different from our country versus other countries,” stated Al Said.
Last year, the committee received 299 reports of child abuse.
“Yes, we do receive cases of abuse at the clinic. We deal with child abuse and with adults who were abused as children. I don’t see as much neglect as much as I see abuse,” she added.
“Adults who haven’t talked about this (abuse) face a lot of problems. You find them with low self esteem and sometimes we find that they’ve actually forgotten because the trauma is so hard that the mind actually hides part of it.”
According to the ministry, physiological abuse takes many forms: humiliation, isolation, intimidation, neglect, rejection, discrimination and hatred.
“Neglect is manifested in the failure to provide the child’s basic needs, with intent, indifference or lack of interest by the person who is responsible for them. This falls under different aspects of the child’s life, including health, education, emotional development, nutrition, housing and safe living conditions,” Al Hajri said.
The ministry stated that it received reports of 23 cases of physical abuse, 20 cases of mental abuse, and nine cases of sexual abuse.
“As far as immediate intervention by a child protection representative, if the child is exposed to abuse they are placed in temporary care homes belonging to the Department of Family Protection, which is dedicated to the protection, care, shelter and rehabilitation of a child subjected to violence, exploitation, or abuse,” Al Hajri said.
He further stated that violence and abuse against children generally takes one of four forms: physical violence, sexual violence, psychological or emotional violence, and neglect.
According to the Al Hajri, physical abuse can take many forms, such as beatings, shaking, kicking, biting, burning, ironing, strangling, poisoning, and air restriction.
“We do have child abuse just like other countries; the only difference is that it’s hidden. We lack data because a lot of people will not report cases, and if they do tell someone they ask for it not to be reported (to authorities) because of their reputation.”
“The focus of the child abuse prevention programme is on all children and not just Omani children. We all live here, it’s all our society. Whether we’re Omani or not Omani, we all live in the same area and it’s all our responsibility,” pointed out Al Said.