An estimated 23 percent of abused children have also suffered from sexual abuse, an official from the National Family Safety Program (NFSP) said Saturday.
Maha Al-Muneef, director of the NFSP, said: “About 23 percent of the documented children were sexually abused, while the number of cases of child abuse of different forms this year is progressively growing.”
Al-Muneef said she was concerned about the situation. “Sexual abuse of children has become the subject of great concern in the community and the focus of many professional initiatives. Parents were the perpetrators in two-thirds of the cases reported last year and most common risk factors for abuse are divorce and fathers’ unemployment.”
“Seventy-three percent of the documented cases last year involved physical abuse and neglect, while there was sexual abuse in 23 percent of the cases. Twelve children died due to abuse last year,” she said.
She called on public and private organizations to join hands in tackling this social evil. In 2012, there were 202 cases of child abuse reported to child protection centers at Saudi hospitals, said Al-Muneef.
She said boys and girls were equally affected. Twelve percent of the documented cases were infants under the age of one. She said that 87 percent of the victims were Saudis. A large number of cases go unreported in the Kingdom, she said.
“In 2013, although several cases have been reported in the national registry, we have not compiled and analyzed them as yet and I expect the number of child abuse cases to be higher this year,” said the NFSP chief. “Moreover, there is general agreement in the Kingdom now that child abuse is a serious problem because the impact of abuse can range from no apparent effects to very severe ones.”
Typically, children who experience the most serious types of abuse, involving family members and high degrees of physical force, exhibit behavior problems ranging from separation anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder. “Hence, we have initiated a child helpline that receives calls from children, their parents and caregivers from all over the country,” said Al-Muneef. The number 116111 is toll free and can be reached via landline and mobile, she added.
She said the NFSP receives various complaints from children, their parents, friends, well-wishers and nongovernmental organizations operating in the country. “Abuse accounts for about 25 percent of all calls,” said Al-Muneef, adding that the NFSP currently receives over 1,000 calls a month, mostly to report cases of child abuse.
Asked about child abuse in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, she said this was difficult to quantify because statistics were not compiled in the past. “However, I can speak about Saudi Arabia and I do believe that the trend of child abuse will be upwards due to certain reasons.”
These reasons include an increase in reporting of abuse due to the growing awareness among the people and professionals working with children in Saudi Arabia. She said the media was also playing a major role on this front.
Although there are no statistics for the number of children affected in the GCC, there appears to be a rise in the cases of abused children. It was unclear whether this means there has been an increase in the number of victims, or merely an increase in the public’s awareness of the problem, she said.

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