PHCC called for the unconditional rejection and renunciation of all forms and manifestations of violence for all, whether children, women or others who are exposed to violence in their lives, with their families and relatives, or in work or in any other place.
On the occasion of the International Day of Non-Violence, observed annually on October 2, PHCC called for efforts to systematically address the risk factors that lead to exposure to violence and protect society by developing strategies to assist countries and local communities to prevent and eliminate all types of violence, therefore, yielding positive outcomes in areas such as mental health, education and reduction in crime.
Dr. Sadriya Al-Kooheji, Assistant Medical Director for Child and Adolescent Health at PHCC, stressed the positive role that PHCC plays in combating violence, stating: “Through the Child and Adolescent Health programs In the Children’s Clinics at PHCC’s health centers, we are keen to explore how to communicate with children and adolescents of all ages, to detect signs of violence, both at home and at school. We are working to raise awareness among the medical staff and train them on detecting signs of violence against children.”
Dr. Al-Kooheji added: “With regard to cases of children with special needs, we provide medical advice and the necessary awareness along with psychological support for both them and their families. In cases of pathological behaviors such as involuntary urination, nail biting, hair-pulling and other disorders, which can be a manifestation of violence against children, we also provide medical advice, show motivating and enticing ways to deal with these behaviors, and explain to the family and the parents that the use of violence will not lead to treatment, but will only make the situation worse. In the Child Clinics at PHCC, we always refer cases of violence, or suspected violence, to specialized centers for treatment and follow-up.”
Dr. Al-Kooheji explained that violence against children, defined as persons under the age of eighteen, is one of the most common types of all forms of violence, whether it is perpetrated by parents, other caregivers, or peers, noting that global estimates reveal that about one billion children between the ages of 2-17 years old have been subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence or have suffered from neglect.Dr. Al-Kooheji noted that most forms of violence against children involve at least one of six main types of interpersonal violence that tend to occur at different stages of a child's development, among which is “physical abuse”; physical abuse occurs when a child suffers a deliberate injury, one that is not caused by an. Signs of such abuse may include bruises, scrapes, blows, punches, strangulation, bites, trampling, violent handling, hair pulling, pinching, spitting, broken bones, burns, internal injury, or even death. There is also "sexual abuse", in which an older person uses a child for sexual purposes, such as rape, physical and sexual harassment in the streets, on transportation and in crowded places, or by forcing children to engage in various sexual practices.
As for "emotional abuse", it can be defined as using methods of psychological abuse, such as contempt, a type of behavior that combines rejection and humiliation. It manifests in a parent refusal to help a child, or tending to call their children names that demean them by describing the child as mean and nasty, or by leaving the child alone in a dark room, in addition to isolating the child from those he or she loves, leaving them alone for long periods, or preventing them from communicating with friends or adults inside and outside the family.
Exploitation and corruption are also considered as forms of emotional abuse, as they include encouraging the child to become delinquent, i.e.: teaching them criminal behavior, leaving them with a servant, encouraging them to escape from school or participate in sexual acts.
Particularly distressing is the negligence of children's emotional responses, such as ignoring the their attempts to interact with adults by touching, speaking, or kissing, thereby making them feel emotionally undesirable. Neglect is, therefore, also a form of violence because it involves abandoning the child, eventually causing him/her emotional or health problems.
We must also address “health abuse”, which is displayed when we see a child suffering from hunger, being too thin, complaining from lice, and wearing inappropriate clothing, signs that make the child feels that there is no one to take care of him/her or take him/her to a health facility if they need health care.
Strengthening measures to contain the disease
Dr. Al-Kooheji suggested that children from all over the world also face an increased risk to their safety and well-being due to abuse, sexual violence, exploitation, social exclusion, and separation from caregivers due to the measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. This stresses the importance of including child protection in any sound COVID-19 response and recovery plan and implement it in all sectors through an approach that recognizes collective responsibility. Full preparation, from all sectors of society, is needed to enhance children’s safety and provide the necessary groundwork for each sector to achieve this goal.
Dr. Al-Kooheji noted that there are several strategies to prevent violence against children, namely implementing and enforcing laws prohibiting violent behavior and restricting the availability of alcohol and firearms, for example, changing norms and values, creating a safe environment, supporting parents and caregivers, strengthening economic conditions, providing response services, developing educational and life skills to ensure school enrolment, and providing training to develop life and social skills.
Dr. Al-Kooheji also stressed the role of the family and society in protecting children from violence, physical and psychological abuse by creating an appropriate environment inside the home in which the child's ideas are respected and listened to, their problems are solved, and they are provided with the necessary care. Dr. Al-Kooheji underlined that dialogue or negotiation should replace punishment in order to curb violent behavior and teach the child of his or her right to protection, how to protect themselves from violence and encourage self-expression. Violence against children can also be prevented by providing support to families to care for and give priority to their children’s development during early childhood.