A campaign entitled “School Without Violence” was launched on Monday at Al-Hamra School here in cooperation with Himayah Protection Society to combat child abuse.
Its aim is to spread awareness among children on how to protect themselves and communicate any abuse they face. The organizers hope their workshops will benefit all schools in the Kingdom.
Head of the Himayah Society Samirah Al-Ghamdi said they would start with schools and the second step is to provide training workshops to journalists so they can cover abuse stories in an effective way. The third move will consist of awareness campaigns at malls for the public to know what is being categorized as abuse and how to deal with it.
Al-Ghamdi added that the best place to start from is school where a vast number of students — the main target audience — are available.
She urged courts to take into consideration what children tell them about abuse instead of considering them minors. “Children at a certain age don’t lie, so whatever they say regarding abuse should be documented and considered in courts,” she stressed.
Al-Ghamdi called on all schools to contact the society, so it can provide workshops for students of different age groups. “We want the Ministry of Education to cooperate with us to have our campaign spread at all public and private schools, starting from Makkah province and moving on to all other places.”
The campaign, she said, would be carried out by volunteers. “We accept all interested people. We train them and they can join our team.”
Al-Ghamdi added that they hoped there would be well-equipped centers with comfortable rooms where abused individuals could sit and talk. These rooms, she said, need to have hidden cameras to record everything the abused children and women say instead of depending on the written material only.
The campaign concentrates primarily on sexual harassment, said Al-Ghamdi. She added: “Through workshops, we realize that some children are being harassed and we tend to deal with them individually.”
Al-Ghamdi advised abused people to go to hospitals, police, court or human rights organizations, all of which can offer help, and not to remain silent. She highlighted that some abused cases go without help, because the abused person does not want to document the case and is afraid of going public.
General manager of Al-Hamra school Ilham Izzi said that they had detected a number of abuse cases at different grades in her school and added that they discovered this through the attitude of the students.
“If the child sits alone, tends to be aggressive towards classmates and teachers, or when his or her grades go down, chances are that something is going wrong.”
According to the general manager, they got enthusiastic to cooperate with Himayah as a specialized body to help them after the school had faced abuse cases. Izzi added that in case of abuse, the school writes a report about the abused student and contacts the parents. “In many cases, by talking to the student’s mother or siblings we find out that there is abuse at home.”
According to her, they usually contact the parents and suggest names of rehabilitation specialists to help the student. “In case the parents do not cooperate, we tend to suspend the child from our school.”
Izzi said although the number of abused students has decreased in the past few years, the school still faces cases of sexual, physical and verbal abuse, even in kindergarten.
A recent study revealed by the Ministry of Social Affairs indicated that their eight shelters had received 1,368 domestic violence cases. The ministry also indicated that 45 percent of children in the Kingdom had been abused and that 74 percent of the abusers were parents.