Domestic Violence

Yesterday I mentioned the family communication initiative being launched by the KACND to address family values and domestic violence. Domestic violence is a problem in every part of the world, and KSA is not an exception.

The UN  International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was last week, on Nov 25. One of the statistics quoted is horrifying:

At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her.

1 out of 3. That means that every time you look around, whether at work or in the grocery store, every third woman you see is a possible victim. Just stop for a moment and count around you; one… two… victim… one… two… victim.

Do not for a moment think that “I am in the West, and you’re quoting a number for the third world.” No, the figures are 30% for UK and Australia, 22% for the US (the figure was 31% in 1998). The figures for the Middle East are the same as the rest of the world, it is just talked about less.

We often think of this as a female problem- NO, it is not. It is a problem that involves both men and women. Women will not solve it until men stand up against DV as well. That means YOUR father, brother, son and husband. That is the only way to save YOUR mother, sister, daughter and wife.

Some information and definitions are given below.

Some UN definitions for types of DV:

Physical abuse such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, threats with an object or weapon, and murder. It also includes traditional practices harmful to women such as female genital mutilation and wife inheritance (the practice of passing a widow, and her property, to her dead husband’s brother).

Sexual abuse such as coerced sex through threats, intimidation or physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts or forcing sex with others.

Psychological abuse which includes behaviour that is intended to intimidate and persecute, and takes the form of threats of abandonment or abuse, confinement to the home, surveillance, threats to take away custody of the children, destruction of objects, isolation, verbal aggression and constant humiliation.

Economic abuse includes acts such as the denial of funds, refusal to contribute financially, denial of food and basic needs, and controlling access to health care, employment, etc.

The DV cycle:



There is a HUGE emphasis on families as the fabric of society in KSA, however like everything else the surface words and the reality beneath are different.

Locals tend to entertain mostly within extended families with a rich tradition of visiting and hosting. Having friends over for dinner is not done often- it’s either the men getting together or sometimes the ladies.

One would expect that with all this interaction people would be close to their families- sharing and confiding with them. However families are SO interconnected that confiding would be akin to broadcasting your affairs from the top of your house. So that eliminates the extended family.

One would then assume that the people would confide within the nuclear family. This is not the general case. Except for some well-adjusted households, people live under the same roof without actually sharing a life together. Communication is about mundane details rather than anything meaningful.  Part of this is culture, part habit. The result is dysfunctional households and a breakdown of family structure.

In a bid to preserve family values and preventing domestic violence, the KSA government is emphasizing the need for dialogue within families through The King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue. It would be interesting to see what impact the initiative will have.