Dubai: When there's violence inside the home, it's the children who are always the most vulnerable because they suffer in silence and, at most times, they do not understand what the aggression is all about.
"Young children are at special risk. Children are not able to understand that abuse or neglect is not their fault. They may think that they did something wrong and deserve what happened," Anita Sunil, clinical psychologist at Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC), said.
In a bid to raise awareness on child abuse, DFWAC on Sunday launched a campaign titled ‘Care & Love… The Key to Protect' to reach out to parents and children on the issue of child protection.
Awareness items were distributed to mall goers to teach them about the red flags that signal child abuse in a booth at Mirdif City Centre. The malls had been chosen to reach as many people as possible and to take advantage of the school break.
Leveraging school break
"Most of the people come to malls. These are the main attractions of Dubai and you would want to cover as many people as you can. We usually do the school workshops about child abuse but then there's the holiday as of this week," Fatma Rashid Al Falasi, DFWAC social responsibility coordinator, told Gulf News.
Mohammad Ali, a father of three who was given the awareness materials, lauded the foundation for the initiative. "It's a very good concept to be honest. [These campaigns are good] because it's about making sure that the child is brought up in a safe environment," Ali said. Upon receiving the awareness material, he immediately explained it to his seven-year-old daughter Aliah.
The importance of engaging children in discussions about protection should be given priority at home. But educating parents is just as important, Sunil said.
"It is up to adults who care to protect them. It is very important to keep ourselves aware of the real facts, in order to protect our children," Sunil said.
Sunil added that various forms of abuse exist, but are often disregarded. "Saying or doing things that make a child feel unloved, unwanted, unsafe, or worthless, which ranges from yelling, threatening to ignoring the child, to not giving love and support. It may not leave visible scars but the damage to a child is just as real," Sunil said.
Rape, which relates to any sexual contact between an adult and a child or between an older child and a younger child, is not the only form of sexual abuse. Sunil said that showing pornography to a child is also a type of sexual abuse.
DFWAC said their office is ready to help anyone anytime through their hotline at 800-111 or sending an SMS to 5111.