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Friday, December 3, 2021

Investigation launched after mother exposes sexual abuse at Doha-based nursery 


Due to the sensitive and legal nature of this report, Doha News will refrain from naming any parties involved.

A devastated mother took to Instagram on March 17 to blow the whistle on an alleged child sexual abuser, triggering an outpouring of support as well as outrage among the public in Qatar.

According to the mother, her daughter, who was two-years-old at the time, was sexually abused during her year at a renowned nursery in The Pearl. After prices for the nursery were raised, the mother was forced to pull her child out but remained in touch with one of the staff members, a teaching assistant. 

In one incident, the alleged offender and her partner paid a visit to the family home to see the mother and child. The mother said she popped out to run an errand and left her with the two women as well as her housekeeper. Alarm bells first started ringing, the mother said, when she received an inappropriate video showing the nursery employee passing “her hand over my daughter’s private area intentionally”. 

My daughter closed her legs and got up straight away. It didn’t sit well,” she said.

“Doubts filled my head like why would she send it to me if she was trying to hide it? After much thought, what I think happened was that” the partner “was filming a bunch of videos and she just forwarded all of them before watching them in detail,” she added.

Six months later, the mother finally mustered up the courage to ask her daughter whether she had been sexually assaulted by the assistant. To her shock, the child responded in the affirmative. In an Instagram post that has since gone viral among users in Qatar, the mother detailed the excruciating conversation she had with her then four-year-old, in which the child pointed towards her private parts when asked where she had been touched by the suspected abuser.

Several months later, another conversation with the child revealed that the abuse took place in both the classroom and toilets at the nursery, prompting the mother to take initial steps, seeking professional help.

By then, the child had started displaying severe anger and trust issues, including hitting and spitting at staff at her new nursery. The mother was horrified to find her daughter had even started showing signs of sexual behaviour while playing with other children.

“I would often find her playing with her best friend in ways that were too sexual for their age but I put it down to innocent play and curiosity. Like pretending to change each other’s nappies and by touching each other’s private parts in the process,” she said.

Since the story broke on Thursday evening, Doha News has learnt that authorities have contacted the victim’s parents and are investigating the claims. Social workers have also reached out in a bid to rectify apparent shortcomings that may have happened at the time.

Initial shortcomings

During the ordeal, the mother raised her concerns with the nursery but quickly hit a dead end. There was not enough evidence against the assistant and her partner, she was told. 

“I explained again and again what professionals had explained to me…in 80% of sexual abuse cases there is NO evidence. It made no difference to them. I asked them if they knew that there was a 1% chance that other kids were in danger,  how could they take the risk?,” she said, to which they responded: “We can only work off the evidence in front of us, what you are saying are allegations”.

With all doors closed to the mother, she reached out to the only child protection body in Qatar, AMAN, although her experience at the time was disappointing, she claimed.   

One psychiatrist blamed me for the incidents because I was working and she didn’t find the attention she [my daughter] wanted at home so she found it with” the assistant. The other professional, the mother claimed, “fell asleep during our assessment.”

Following the sessions, she was told her daughter failed to show “signs of someone who has been sexually abused.” 

Shocked and in “utter disbelief”, the mother asked to meet the whole team again, including the social worker, case manager, child psychologist and psychiatrist, to which she was met with more scrutiny and criticism. 

One week later, she received a phone call from the case manager offering her some psychiatric sessions for her daughter, prompting her to question why this would be offered if they believed – as per results of their assessment – that she was not abused. She requested to see the case report, but was oddly rejected.

Read also: ‘It still affects me to this day:’ The lasting impact of bullying in Qatar’s schools

“The thing I regret the most in this whole experience was taking my daughter to that place. How could I have exposed such a vulnerable little girl in front of such incapable, incompetent backward people,” she said in her Instagram post. 

Since the 2018 incident, AMAN has come under new management.

In the days since the story went viral online, AMAN has reached out to the mother once more to provide services and support while vowing to investigate any shortcomings of the previous administration.

“I later told my daughter how brave she was for saying those things in front of those strange people. I lied and told her because of her bravery and telling the truth,” they were going to put the accused in jail “so she never does that again to you or any other child.”

Having given up hope for any justice, the mother continued attempting to live as normal before an assistant at the nursery said she saw the accused taking two girls to the toilet and locking the door. When they came out, they would be given lollies, she said.

“This was so heartbreaking to hear. But it was evidence for me that I wasn’t crazy. It was a witness to remove the doubts in my head. This was hope for me to keep going,” the mother said. 

The witness soon reported the incident but was also met with closed doors. “The manager told her the investigation had already been done and there was no evidence of any abuse,” the mother said.

After months of trying, the mother opened up to other parents at the nursery who then applied pressure on management. Finally, the assistant was terminated.

“Until this day I don’t know if it was because of the parents who complained or they genuinely believed our story. Unfortunately, the nursery did nothing to safeguard other children because although she was let go of, nothing further was done,” she said. 

According to the mother, the accused now works with a family with two children and is regularly seen walking around The Pearl. Her new employee took to social media in support of the alleged abuser, whom she said was being wrongfully bullied online.

New employer shows support for alleged abuser [Facebook]
“Please help, my lovely nanny is being bullied by an ex employee accusing her of awful behaviour. If you have Instagram please go to this account and report the account of false information so that we can get it removed ASAP as she is getting threats,” the post said.

As calls by the desperate mother are finally being heard, social media users are now urging authorities for more action to be taken and more safety precautions to be implemented to safeguard children from such abuse. 

“How many more kids have to be hurt? How many more mothers and fathers have to cry? When will we stand up for these children?” the mother of the abused child questions. 

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