Monday, April 10, 2006

(Israel) Study: Nearly 90% of Bedouin girls victims of abuse

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By Ruth Sinai
April 6, 2006

Nearly 90 percent of teenage girls who took part in the first research project to analyze the abuse of girls in Bedouin society reported that they had either been physically abused or had undergone corporal punishment at least once in the year preceding the study. Most of the girls said the abuse was carried out by family members or teachers, according to an article published in the latest edition of "Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal."

"Although this was an exploratory study, the results attest that female abuse is a serious social problem in this community, and that the rate of abuse exceeds that of other Palestinian groups," conclude the researchers from Israeli and American universities. "These findings demonstrate an immediate need for professional intervention and prevention to address this problem."

The study, which was published in March, was conducted by researchers from Howard University in Washington, D.C.; the University of South Florida; Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and the social work unit of the Rahat municipality. It is based on an anonymous survey of 217 Rahat high school students between the ages of 14 and 18.

The researchers examined abuse and neglect in what they described as a tribal, patriarchal society in which issues of sexuality and sexual assault are common and not spoken about. The researchers said that even the high rate of abuse they report does not reflect the full extent of the problem, since the girls appeared to be scared and embarrassed of exposing the entire truth in light of the Bedouin view of family honor - a violation of which could lead to murder.

The study found that 53 percent of the respondents reported at least one type of sexual abuse. Exposure of sexual organs, reported by 18 percent of the girls, was the most prevalent type of sexual assault. Next came sexual harassment (16 percent), fondling (14 percent) and intercourse (8 percent). The respondents said most of the offenders were members of the extended family or friends.

However, most of the physical assaults occurred at the hands of close relatives. Forty-four percent of the respondents said their mothers had physically abused or punished them and the same percentage said their siblings had done so. Thirty-seven percent said the abuse or corporal punishment had been inflicted by their fathers, and 18 percent named their aunts or uncles. Some 32 percent reported physical abuse at the hands of a teacher, and many of the respondents said there had been repeated incidents of abuse and multiple abusers. The study found that younger mothers with less of a connection to their daughters were more likely to abuse them.

Sixty-one percent of the high school girls reported that their siblings psychologically abused them, 54 percent said their mothers did, 49 percent said their fathers did and 42 percent said their teachers did.


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