With reporting from Riham Sheble
If you believe your child was molested in Qatar, what should you do?
For one expatriate family in Qatar recently, the answer ultimately was to leave the country for good.
But that was only after they tried seeking support at the hospital, with counseling centers and the police.
“I feel very helpless. I haven’t been given any point of contact, or any direction on what to do,” father Mr. Stewart (not his real name) recently told Doha News. Stewart said his 7-year-old daughter was molested during a sleepover at a friend’s house in November.
Since then, the family said there has been one lapse after another in terms of support services here, which have compounded the trauma of the initial incident.
Lack of coordination
The family’s experiences aren’t unique and and comes several years after Qatar identified a coordination gap between health care officials and law enforcement authorities that hinders the ability to hold child abusers here accountable.
According to Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2011-16, the country is considering adopting a number of strategies to improve response to abuse cases, including:
“The establishment of a data registry centre for child abuse and neglect, child advocacy programmes, a public awareness campaign and improving the lines of communication between hospitals and relevant authorities…
This approach will be centered on developing a mechanism to detect early child abuse and neglect by increasing the number of social workers in schools, youth awareness programmes and school hotlines to ease and encourage reporting.”
It’s unclear what – if any – policies and procedures health care officials in Qatar follow when abuse is reported.
Despite repeated requests for information, neither Hamad Medical Corp., nor Sidra Medical Research Center could provide information to Doha News about what procedures are meant to used when dealing with reported cases of child abuse in Qatar.
When the victim told her parents about the molestation incident the morning after the sleepover, the Stewarts followed the advice of a nurse friend and took her to the Pediatric Emergency Center in Al Sadd.
The girl’s father said the doctors were sympathetic, but the visit was “not a good experience.”
His daughter was eventually brought into a “cold and clinical” room for a physical examination by several male doctors as well as other individuals – possibly student doctors, as their role was never explained, the man said.
The young girl was crying in the crowded room at this point, and her parents decided not to subject her to the examination under those circumstances and left the hospital.
At no point, the father said, were they asked if the incident had been reported to the police or given any advice or information on how to follow up with the authorities.
Growing number of cases
This is despite the fact that, according to a 2013 survey by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, one in five children living in Qatar is subject to some form of abuse.
Those cases most commonly occur at home or at school, and sexual assaults typically make up a very small fraction of reported child abuse incidents in Qatar, the survey found.
But health officials in Qatar have also said that child abuse is severely underreported here, due to bureaucratic hurdles, insufficiently trained healthcare providers and a reluctance to break cultural taboos.
In terms of the medical community and society at large, more should be done to acknowledge that abuse takes place – even in Arab communities, one local physician recently urged, adding that denial is a common response.
“They can’t believe their ears,” Dr. Khalid Al Sadi, a consultant at the Pediatric Emergency Center in Al Sadd told a conference earlier this month, according to the Peninsula.
This unwillingness to address the problem can have devastating effects on victims and their families.
After filing a police report and the aborted doctor’s visit, the Stewart family sought help for their daughter from welfare officials.
They made an appointment with a psychologist at HMC but, after their experience in the pediatrics department, decided to meet the medical professional for an initial visit without their daughter. There, they were asked why they would leave her in the care of another adult.
“It made us feel guilty,” the father said, adding that he suspects that the psychologist – who was wearing a niqab – didn’t understand how common it is for children in many western countries to have sleepovers with their friends.
Several weeks later, Stewart said he had a similar experience at the offices of the Qatar Foundation for the Protection of Women and Children.
“It was atrocious,” he said, recalling that the conversation included questions such as “Why did you have a sleepover?” and “What did you expect?”
When the family filed a complaint with the Al Rayyan police department, the parents were asked to collect the clothing the girl was wearing the night of the sleepover, which were placed it in a plastic bag and given to investigators.
The accused was apparently arrested in December, but released less than two weeks later, the victim’s father said.
A legal source told Doha News that it is possible that bail could be granted in this case. The source added that it appeared prosecutors were still conducting their investigation and that no trial dates had been scheduled.
The victim’s father is currently unaware of the investigation’s status. He’s had no contact with the public prosecutor’s office, but heard indirectly through his wife’s employer that they are awaiting the results of forensic tests on his daughter’s clothes that were to be performed in the UK.
He said more communication from authorities, sensitive to the nature of the case, would have made the process less traumatic for his family.
The man also pointed to the presence in other countries of social workers who can act as advocates for abuse victims, helping them navigate the legal system while directing them to counselors and other medical professionals.
Prior to leaving Qatar for good, the man said he and his family felt “alone and unsupported.” As the weeks went by without any updates, he said they became less optimistic about the prospects of a conviction.
“The system let us down when it mattered most,” he said.
The only thing i have to say
this country sometimes looks like an Alpha version of software test .. not completely ready to live in
You mean beta
Alpha is even before beta : Alpha -> Beta -> Stable
It’s a terrible thing for any parent or child to go through, every parents worst nightmare,including mine, but It’s a little unfair to criticise Qatar too much. As a country it’s still very inexperienced at dealing with this kind of thing, but learning fast.
Even countries like the UK can still be very flat-footed at dealing with abuse, and even worse with identifying it and acting on it.
I’ll just point to todays news: 65 young people abused over a number of years by a television personality, in a hospital. Hospital knew about it, did nothing.
I won’t even mention the paedophile ring that operated at Westminster throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Agreed. Even in the most developed countries, good help is hard to find. One of the reasons being that social workers, gov’t psychologists and counselors have such a tough job and receive little recognition or compensation. Even if you really love what you do, i can imagine the job breaking most of the good professionals down.
Now Qatar you would still be doing it for (relatively) little money and be unappreciated plus possibly overworked due to the lack of resources. I can’t imagine it drawing many professionals in the child welfare field. Most countries this is were non-profits are able to fill in some gaps.
I think one needs to be careful about being an apologist for Qatar in this instance. Yes, every country has problems with child abuse, and it’s not a ‘new’ problem for any country. In Qatar, however, it is rife and grossly under-reported, as a slew of studies have shown.
As this case reveals, a large part of the problem is lack of communication and training between the police, counselors, and medical staff. This needs to be fixed, and there is really no excuse for it. If Qatar can build remarkable buildings, host world-class universities, and have a greater rate of internet connectivity that many Western countries, then it should be able to lay out and implement a plan that better protects the children who reside within its borders.
I think they shouldn’t leave the country , they didn’t did anything nor it’s the small child’s mistake .. if someone should leave the country it should be the molester
But if you don’t get any help or support whatsoever, the only thing you can do is leave and get proper support in your home country so that your child can somehow overcome this. If the situation was really as stated above, I would have left as well, without hesitation. Poor little girl, traumatised for the rest of her life…
How tragic for this family and I hope the little girl is ok and gets the help she needs in her home country.
Just a note too – all clothing/material should be collected and kept in a paper bag, never plastic, as this degrades samples and can hamper a conviction. Air dry first if necessary.
I appreciate your concern, although see my comments below, I suspect there is some bullshittery involved here amongst the accusers (if it is the case I am thinking of). In that (real) case, they are mendacious, vindictive and most importantly for them, not in Qatar. They can throw these accusations around safe in the knowledge of no prosecution. They like to cause a stink and then leave, messing up the lives behind them. Some kind of weird fetish with the potential for compensation, I suspect.
All the more reason to take care of evidence that may convict or clear the accused.
My comment about how to keep and transport items that may have traces of the perpetrators DNA was intended to alert other DN readers if they are unlucky enough to be in a similar situation and are not in a position to go to the police straight away. Many criminals now are convicted on the basis of DNA evidence which (unlike witness testimony) is less likely to be twisted by lawyers to get guilty people off.
Absolutely a parents worse nightmare. Then to have it compounded by an inefficient support system and inept bureaucracy…..
a lot of this kind of thing used to happen in my school. most don’t report. some do and there parents just don’t believe it or try to hide it. this little girl is very brave, i hope justice is served
The molester should leave the country. It is the worst crime on earth. Let the kids be kids. No one has the right to destroy their life. qatar should know better. So many good people looking to come here no need to keep those disgusting dogs here.
mo married a 9 year old….just saying…….was she (Aisha) allowed to live out her childhood?
Deleted for irrelevance.
Child molesters exist everywhere. We have much less knowledge of,experience with and methods on how to deal with them in the country but thankfully we don’t have pedo rings like most western countries. It’s a really sordid and opaque world, they’re unscrupulous and ingenuity is disturbingly astounding.
Western countries didn’t think they had pedo rings either. Statistical chance would imply they are just as likely in any country. Perhaps in some they’re more likely to be revealed than others.
You’re deluding yourself if you think this country does not have pedo rings or that Qatar is in some way ‘better’ than other countries is this regard. EVERY single study of the abuse of children in this country reveals that it is at a much, much higher rate than in the so-called Western countries you mention. This sort of head-in-the sand denial is why the problem continues in Qatar. This story and your comment summarize it perfectly.
Can you post any evidence to support this comment?
According to the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, 1 in 5 children in Qatar is abused. You can look for the full study yourself, but Doha News covered it a while back.
The study itself notes that abuse is vastly under-reported, so the number is likely much, much higher. Other studies, which are limited in scope, effectively note the same thing.
If you have evidence to suggest that child abuse is NOT a problem in Qatar, I’d love to see it.
1. You’re quoting a Doha News article there, not the study itself, which hardly constitutes solid evidence.
2. The issue we’re commenting on here is sexual abuse. The article you’ve just referred me to is referring to ALL forms of abuse, from verbal abuse to bullying at school, to being shouted at by maids All bad, I agree, but completely out of context to the subject here.
3. You’ve made the statement that ‘EVERY single study of the abuse of children in Qatar country reveals that it is at a much, much higher rate than in the so-called Western countries you mention’.
You’ve presented no evidence of this. There is nothing in that article to compare stats in Qatar to stats in the USA, UK or anywhere else.
4. That article also says ‘The report found that overall, sexual abuse was very rare, representing only 0.93 percent of abuses’.
1-4 I’m providing you with an English reference to the study, not quoting it. As I stated: “You can look for the full study yourself, but Doha News covered it a while back.” Try reading what I write before criticizing it. And stop citing Doha News after you criticize me for referring to it. Read the whole report. And, no, it’s not my job to provide you with bibliography. Research it yourself.
But let’s look at the real issue here: you’re being an apologist for a system that under-reports child abuse and providing excuses for not improving the system.
But hey, stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not a problem, and that if it does exist, Qatar should get a pass because it’s a relatively new country. The equivalent is to say the places like Israel, Angola, and the Central African Republic should get a pass on human rights, because, after all, they are new countries and other older countries abuse people’s human rights, too. I would laugh if it were not so tragic.
Qatar advertises itself as being the BEST or among the best in a number of areas. How about making the country one of the safest place for children on earth? That, more than a new stadium or shiny building, would be a truly amazing accomplishment and the envy of the world.
To be fair, I was strictly referring to sexual abuse like MrJames stated. As far as ALL forms as abuse, I have no doubt we will be higher, physical punishment is a very common and socially accepted method of child rearing here and it does qualify of abuse though not socially recognized as unacceptable yet.
all I can hear from you is ‘I hate qatar’.
If it isn’t reported, it doesn’t exist. This is the policy here.
It is vastly unreported here. Same goes true for a lot of the world . That doesn’t mean we are not aware of it’s existence.
I think I know about this case, and if it is indeed the one I know about, there is a lot, lot more not being mentioned in the background here…….for example, the alleged victim’s father was himself requested to attend the police station for an interview, but then left the country immediately before putting in an appearance, which strikes me as strange, to say the least. I also heard the mother had previously made a similar spurious allegation against someone else, despite the lack of any proper evidence. Of course, this may not be the same case, but in the case I know about the alleged perpetrator was arrested with not a jot of evidence, just on her word, which is of course, outrageous.
And I’d just like to add that if you are the dodgy couple reading these comments, who did a runner after making these allegations against someone else, without any proper evidence, having messed up his own family’s life, you’re a disgrace. And I think you’re compulsive liars, too.
But its ok for you to make these comments without having any proof that this is the same couple or the case that you heard about. Bit like “The pot calling the kettle black”!!!
Er, yes, it’s fine, because as I’ve already indicated, my comments only apply to the case and individuals I know about……I don’t think you understand that idiom.
“If your child is molested in Qatar, what should you do? For one expatriate family in Qatar recently, the answer ultimately was to leave the country for good.” I appreciate that you may be trying to raise the awareness of a societal issue but with the above wording Doha News is presenting this particular incident as a fact. Given that facts are not in the public domain, the evidence is not clear and there is no guilty finding in a court of law this is irresponsible sensationalism and a reprehensible form of “if it bleeds it leads” “journalism”. As the accusers have now left the country it seems the facts of this case will never be known. If we want the Daily Mail we can read the Daily Mail. DohaNews can and should do better.
This story took about eight weeks to write from start to finish, because of the verification problems. We did a lot of fact-checking behind the scenes and ultimately released very few details about the parts we could not confirm.
Regardless, the article is about the lack of support services in Qatar for abuse victims and that point stands without contention.
The rest of the article I have no issue with but why couldn’t the first line have been “If you believe your child has been molested what should you do?” The way DN has chosen to word it is unfortunate at the very least.
Fair enough. Will change it to that.
I recall an incident that occurred at a girls school in Doha where a grade one girl was being molested by a grade 6 girl in the toilets at breaktime. the teachers were not made aware of the incident, the girl in question was not suspended or expelled and all effort was made to brush the incident under the carpet. No official authorities were contacted at all. It is a sign of how the countries cultural taboos regarding abuse prevent the incidents from being reported.
If the police can not even enforce traffic law, and expats get treated as slaves then really? What would one expect if their expat child is subject to abhorrent behaviour? Warning to all those thinking of coming to Qatar for the cash this, amongst many many other issues (road deaths, school issues, human rights abuses etc) is yet again another reason not to sell your soul for cash.
While the country gets its protocols in order, if something like this happens to your child perhaps it would be best to go to a private hospital like Al Ahli. Examination in a room full of mostly male medics would be out of the question for most.
QNHRC is to be blamed for all of these things. I am not sure why that committee exists since all they do is post pictures and videos of them giving some speech about Human rights, all they do is talk talk talk but no one has ever seen them take any actions against Human Rights violations in the country ever!
As far as the system is concerned it is biased towards a lot of people unless they have wasta and it is not going to change anytime soon. Unless they find time from reconstructing all the roads in the country every year to actually build a proper legal system.
this is a major issue in the middle east and the rest of the world, but since this issue is considered taboo in the middle east, it is always covered up and left unaddressed unless the victim family member take action individually. It is the sad truth. I believe there must be a serious effort put forth to address this devastating and shameful crime. collaboration from different agencies need to work together to put a solid infrastructure and policy to address this issue. this is a horrific crime that must be addressed, it is not one unit responsibility to address this issue. there must be public awareness about this this crime and steps to follow when it occur. I am sorry Stewart and the family. I truly sympathize with you and your innocent little girl that wanted to have fun with her friends and innocently wanted a sleep over. I hope this case will change the world and your honored daughter will be the lead cause for addressing the humanity with this disgusting crime!
I would make the abuser’s name public; it’s very likely he will offend again and he might be even abuse his own kids