Family Development Centre for domestic abuse victims put on hold

Advocates for women and children say they are still waiting for an aid centre to open.

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ABU DHABI // A centre for victims of domestic abuse scheduled to open in the capital by the end of the year has been put on hold.

The news came as family specialists across the country stressed the importance of civil institutions to provide protection for victims.

In March last year, the Family Development Foundation (FDF) announced it would open the centre.It was supposed to take care of cases from the minute they were reported until the case was resolved through the legal system or social services.

The centre was also to provide a shelter for one week for urgent cases who could not return to their families.

While shelters for women and children exist in some emirates, the centre was to serve anyone under 18, the elderly, women and people with special needs.

The other shelters include one for female victims of human trafficking in Abu Dhabi, a women's shelter in Dubai and one in Sharjah for children.

Mariam Al Rumaithi, the general manager of FDF, said the plan was shelved because cases could be dealt with by the Department of Family Guidance with the consultation of the foundation.

"The cases that are received at the department are provided with the required services by coordinating with our strategic stakeholders who are specialised in the issue, for example, the social support centres that are part of Abu Dhabi police."

Ms Al Rumaithi said the centre's future remained unclear.

"It needs a study on the real need for it, in addition to the opinion of the strategic stakeholders that the foundation works with side by side," she said.

The Ministry of Interior, meanwhile, announced last month it would launch a federal child-protection centre. It has not been decided whether it will include a shelter or when it would open, but it would be linked to other such facilities throughout the UAE.

Dr Soad Al Oraimi, the gender and development professor at UAE University's sociology department, said it was important to have such a centre in Abu Dhabi, because most family abuse cases here are not reported for social reasons.

"People have many social factors that prevent them from the reporting of any violence because they don't want a police record," she said, "but when there is such a foundation away from police and official records [people will report more].

"It is highly needed. The more the state is growing, the more it is becoming complicated."

Dr Yousef Abou Allaban, a consultant psychiatrist and American Board Diplomate in Psychiatry and Neurology, said one way or the other police should be involved in abuse cases. But, he added, specialists were needed to deal with the victims.

"All around the world, a clinical psychologist is present. So the question is, do we have in the UAE enough people to handle this issue?"

He said victims were often afraid to go to the police, especially in cases of rape and sexual abuse.