I’m angry. For a change, it’s actually due to something worth getting angry about.
While I was busy researching the local news, I stumbled across this article on sex attacks against women in the UAE. The article reports that during a conference on violence against women, it was stated that nine in 10 sex crimes against women go unreported. NINE in 10.
And, from what I can see, there is almost zero support available for victims of sexual assault in the UAE.
This is where the anger comes in.
In the past there have been a number of stories, mainly in the international press, on tourists who were sexually assaulted while on holiday in Dubai and found themselves in prison for being under the influence of alcohol or for having sexual intercourse outside of marriage. So you’re raped, you go to the police station under the impression that this is where you will be protected, only to then be thrown behind bars. Worrying.
I imagine that for expats, it is stories like these that make victims of sexual assault reluctant to go to the police. For locals, there is the deeper issue of custom and tradition, which I won’t go into because a) I don’t have enough knowledge on the subject and b) what little I know makes my blood boil, and I don’t want to say anything that could potentially start an argument. That isn’t the point of this post.
I feel that one of the many reasons why such a ridiculously low number of women report this horrible crime is because there is a lack of a support group for sexual assault victims in the UAE. When individuals have a support network, they can make informed decisions about what to do and how to handle the situation. A lot of women simply do not even have the confidence to report the crime. A lack of such a facility is exacerbating the problem.
And even if one chooses for whatever reason not to report the crime, they should still have access to a service run by individuals who are trained to handle this type of trauma. Counselling is imperative when you’ve been through such a traumatic experience, as well as having a support network of some sort.
In the UK, there are a number of organisations that women can reach out to in the event of sexual assault, such as Rape Crisis, which provides everything from legal advice to counselling. Sadly, I googled ‘sexual assault victim support UAE,’ and found nothing. Apparently the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children offers some sort of service, but it certainly isn’t well advertised if they do, and on their website there’s no mention of how they can help. A different article in The National mentions a Filipino women’s rights group called Gabriela – UAE that provides counselling to Filipinas – mainly victims of sexual abuse.
But other than this, no service is in sight.
So imagine; you’ve just been the victim of a hideous, traumatic crime and you have no one to turn to. You cannot even trust the law to protect you. Sexual assault, and more specifically, rape, is terrible, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the toll it takes on one’s mental health.
I now feel a very strong urge to start a support group of my own. I have no idea where to start and what it entails, but I’ve begun reaching out to people who could potentially help and looking into the practical side of things. Attitudes towards sexual assault need to change – not only in the UAE, may I add here. The UK has a ridiculously low rape conviction rape, as well as many other European countries. This is a worldwide problem; one I wish to see improve during my time.
The bottom line is simple:
No means NO – no matter the circumstances.
Note: If by any chance you’re reading this and think you can offer some sort of assistance or advice on how to proceed to organise such a support group, please get in touch. Likewise, if you’re aware of any other service that exists in the UAE, please let me know.