July 19, 2011

Child sex abuse: Jordan's secret shame

A pseudonymous blogger in Jordan shares his personal story to help break the silence about child sexual abuse in the Arab world.

He calls himself Mohammed Michael and in his blog he claims he was sexually abused as a boy. There is not enough awareness of the issue of child sex abuse, Michael argues in his posts, particularly in Jordan where he says he was abused. By writing about his personal experiences he hopes to raise awareness of child sexual abuse across the Arab world.

In Mohammed Michael's blog, called "An Arab Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse," he sometimes documents incidents of abuse from his childhood, beginning when he was around 5 or 6 and lasting long into his teens. In one post, titled "The Network", he writes: "I was a few times molested with another child my age…. I am not proud of this and I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself. Just imagine: a 14 year old kid threatened by a knife; we felt like we had no other choice."

In a post titled "Why this blog?" Michael talks about his motivation to write: "I might sometimes seek attention – who doesn’t – but this isn’t about seeking or getting attention. It is about trying to make a change." He says his blog is a part of his "journey to break the taboo" of speaking out about sexual and domestic abuse issue in the Arab world.

Jordan was the first country in the Arab region to address child abuse with an independent child protection system that launched in 1996. Of the cases the organisation deals with, approximately 45 per cent involve sexual abuse. However, critics say more must be done. A 2007 UNICEF Jordan study found that 2 to 7 of every 100 children are sexually abused by family members, school teachers, and administrators.

Mohammed Michael is a pseudonym, the blogger says, used to spare his family the shame of his story. "I cannot imagine the look on my mother’s face if I would tell her that, for almost my whole life, around 25 people have molested me. She might die of the shock and I only want to protect her, because I want what’s best for her" he writes in a post entitled "The beginning".

Speaking with The Stream, Michael explained that he's told only his sister and his girlfriend about his blog, but that he thinks people in the Middle East need to hear his story. He hopes to attract the attention of Jordan's Queen Rania. Posting on Twitter, he wrote "We need sexual education to be included in the school programs for all Jordanian schools. cc @QueenRania #tweet2queenrania #reformJO #Amman".

These are some of the social media elements featured in this segment.