RIYADH – Violence against women is much more “widespread” than previously thought, according to Dr. Modi Al-Zahrani, a psychologist overseeing social protection initiatives at the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Al-Zahrani was quoted Saturday as saying in an Arabic newspaper, that women who are constantly abused start believing it is a fact of life.
She said violence against women takes place in most societies but often goes unreported and is accepted as part of the order of things. Recently documented evidence shows that domestic abuse is far more “widespread” than previously believed, she added.
Al-Zahrani said many women relinquish their legal rights ordained by Almighty Allah because their husbands promise never to be violent with them again.
She said that recent statistics show that between 16 and 50 percent of all women suffer from physical violence and mental torture at the hands of their male partners.
She said violence against women can also have intergenerational repercussions. Citing an example, she said boys who witness their mothers being physically abused by their fathers are more likely than other boys to use violence to solve disagreements in their adult lives.
She said the same is applicable to girls who are raised in troubled families.
Al-Zahrani, who has been tasked with social protection at the Ministry of Social Affairs since 2004 and has a PhD in psychology, said a perpetual problem facing women is the slow pace of litigation procedures. Some divorce and alimony cases remain unresolved for years. This leaves many women with little choice but to compromise on their rights decreed by Almighty Allah.
She said many abused women are not financially independent and their husbands are the sole breadwinners. Their families also stubbornly refuse to help them financially until the courts resolve their cases.
She said in most cases, the oppressed wives being tortured mentally and physically by their husbands isolate themselves from society.
Al-Zahrani said violence takes place against women regardless of age, race, education, class or ethnic group.
They often feel trapped and do not know where to report their violent husbands. They believe that there is no help out there from the police, human rights bodies and the courts.
In her long experience, Al-Zahrani said she has dealt with abused women from all walks of life, and in many different situations. This includes female doctors who do not know how to get rid of their jealous husbands; old illiterate wives who are constantly humiliated for being divorcees; and those young girls who have been living in solitary confinement for years just because they had relations with men where they were victimized.
She said some men continue to abuse their wives and family members because there are few deterrents. Another factor is the use of drugs and alcohol, with studies showing that drug-addict husbands and those under the influence of alcohol are the main perpetrators of violence in families. – SG