crime

Child abuse: parents have to be alert

Encourage open communication between you and your children and teach them what is proper and improper

16:23 September 4, 2017

Dubai: Child abuse cases often do not happen overnight and parents have to be alert of the red flags to protect their children, a psychiatrist said.

In a recent incident in Dubai, an 11-year-old girl was harassed by her teacher and pressured to send nude pictures of herself via WhatsApp.

School officials discovered the teacher’s vile behaviour after they noticed changes in girl’s personality and she even contemplated on committing suicide.

Dr Mohammad Tahir, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and director at American Wellness Centre, said adults who sexually prey on children or pre-teens usually do it for a period of time.

“We don’t know what really happened here but acts like these do not happen overnight, usually. There’s a possibility that other things had happened in the past but the girl ignored it. She could be shy and did not have the courage to tell her parents or anyone about this incident and it reached this point,” Dr Tahir told Gulf News.

Dr Tahir said sexual predators or paedophiles usually have a specific target.

“They usually target girls who are shy, who are not very verbal or vocal. Usually 11-year-old girls are in pre-pubertal age and this is the age where the hormones have not kicked in but they are growing physically and they have a lot of questions,” Dr Tahir said.

Teaching children what is proper and improper behaviour is important so they would not be taken advantage of. Parents should also encourage open communication between them and their children.

“In those kinds of cases, I always advise parents to befriend their children and ask them if anybody is bothering them and provide them with an environment that’s very comfortable, soothing and supportive where they can say anything,” Dr Tahir said.

“So be very open to them and give them the opportunity to say any minor detail because there are a lot of things which for kids, they cannot understand but for adults, they can be red flags already.”

Parents should also be wary of any adults — whoever they are be they a family member or friend — who unduly kiss or hug their children repeatedly for no reason as more than 50 per cent of perpetrators of child abuse cases are either a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance.

Dr Tahir said it’s important for children to spot these early warning signs: If the kid is shy, hiding things, is feeling embarrassed, having a low self-esteem because they feel guilty although it’s not their fault but they take it to themselves and they feel guilty about it.

They may also show signs of sadness or depression, anxiety or unexplained fear.