Start awareness lessons when children are three to four years old, experts say
Image Credit: SuppliedFrom left clockwise: Dr Samer Jahshan, Dr Khizara Amin and Dr Haytham Shabayek
Abu Dhabi: The shocking revelation by Abu Dhabi Police that the accused in the rape and murder of an 11-year old boy in the capital last week was someone known to the family should be an eye-opener to parents and children, experts said on Wednesday.
“Generally, it is very difficult for an average parent to identify sexual predators among acquaintances,” said Dr Haytham Shabayek, head of the Psychiatry Department at Medior 24/7 hospital in Abu Dhabi.
“Moreover, if we put some standards to identify such people, we may end up criminalising everyone [due to misunderstanding],” he said.
Normally, such predators have anti-social personality but not everyone with anti-social personality may commit such a crime. It varies from case to case. It is not the same psychopathology — some may be under the influence of drugs, some might have experienced similar sexual abuse as a child and is taking revenge on society. Other factors like sexual frustration also plays a role, Dr Shabayek explained.
Dr Samer Jahshan, consultant psychiatrist at NMC Royal Hospital, also said it is very difficult make a general profile of such predators. “They may be very polished and soft-spoken,” he said.
Dr Khizara Ameen, specialist psychiatrist at Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said such predators are paedophiles. They target children because they are weak and vulnerable, she said.
She said parents should be careful about people who try to get close to children by offering chocolates or gifts. They will be very nice in the beginning and they may try to take children out, the doctor explained.
Dr Shabayek said the right solution is creating certain general rules for children in dealing with all sorts of people — both acquaintances and strangers. The fact that the culprit in the latest case cross-dressed as a woman gives an important warning. “We should not differentiate between men and women among strangers; girls and boys as victims. Both men and women among strangers can be dangerous and both boys and girls can be victims,” Dr Shabayek explained.
The experts said awareness among parents is the key to avoid sexual harassment of children.
“It is not fair to blame lack of awareness among children [when sexual abuse incidents occur] because parents have more responsibility to avoid such situations,” said Dr Shabayek.
Parents should be aware of the fact that children have an instinct for exploration, which unless controlled by parents can cause many troubles, he said. “Children cannot resist that instinct for exploration; that’s why they put their fingers in electric sockets or hot water or some children run towards darkness at night.”
Parents should not shy away from talking to children at a very young age about private body parts and sexuality. “Start talking to them when they are three to four years old,” Dr Shabayek said. Teach them about ‘body boundaries’ and bad touch and good touch by others. Children should not get very close to others. With strangers, they should maintain longer ‘body boundary’.
Dr Ameen said children should not allow anybody else to touch their private parts, except their mother. She said she has handled cases of children who were abused by their own fathers and other family members.
Dr Jahshan said children should never sit on a stranger’s lap. “Never respond to strangers even if they offer gifts or goodies.” If children come across any such experience, they should immediately tell their parents about the same, he said.
Dr Shabayek said parents should instil confidence in children that they can share any bad experience with their parents. Remember, predators generally create a fear among children that parents will scold or blame them if they shared the experience of abuse with them. Predators exploit this fear in children whose imagination multiplies that fear.
Some children could be shy to talk about uncomfortable experience in the presence of others. Give some codes to children for communicating such things when others are around, Dr Shabayek said. “This may help in some dangerous situation as well. Teach them how to raise the alarm, scream or shout for help and run away. They should know some self-defence techniques like kicking and punching,” he explained.
Dr Shabayek said children should never expose their body to strangers, especially online. They should know that no one has the right to take pictures of their private parts. Some teenagers expose their body to strangers online and put themselves into trouble.
Image Credit: Supplied