(MENAFN - Arab News) Verbal domestic abuse is rampant in large segments of Saudi society.
A study, conducted by Munira Al-Subai, a researcher specializing in social affairs, has revealed that 73 percent of women out of a sample of 285 housewives were subjected to verbal abuse by their husbands.
Al-Subai clarified in the study that raising the voice, silencing a spouse in public or verbally humiliating, cursing her or her parents and family, using sexually explicit profanities, degrading her physical appearance, or avoiding using her name when addressing her all constitute forms of verbal abuse.
Mohammad Riyadh Al-Qaqa, a social researcher at UNESCO, told Arab News that "this study sheds light on a world phenomenon that plagues most world communities. If such a problem, which has been uncovered in Riyadh, gets serious attention, this may mark a turning point in the future of social relationships and marital relations in particular."
Such forms of verbal abuse are often accompanied with the threats of physical abuse or even death threats.
Al-Qaqa said "Verbal abuse is foreign to our conservative Arab societies. The family unit is the most prominent feature of our community."
The results shed light on the reasons behind verbal abuse, primarily citing bad mood or anger management issues, followed by habit, provocation, poor financial status, imitating others, and finally, mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse.
Around 15 percent of women said they do not reply when verbally attacked and 39 percent said they reply with profanities, while 64 percent stop doing housework and 73 percent said they retaliate by creating a feud between their husband and children.
Meanwhile, 58 percent go back to their parents' home and just under 11 percent of respondents said they approached social centers for consultation.
Around 31 percent of survey participants claim responsibility for their husband's outbursts, while 17 percent say they give in and apologize to keep the peace.
The study also highlights the toll verbal abuse takes on marriages. The findings confirm that just under 54 percent of wives remain living with their husbands under one roof but sleep in different rooms, while 31 percent say they are aware of their poor marital relationship and 36 percent avoid establishing a real marital relationship altogether.
Eleven percent of respondents said they remain emotionally responsive to their husbands to keep apace of life's obligations, while 29 percent indicated that the relationship died out due lack of emotional attachment and the existence of verbal abuse.
Fifty-four percent asked for a divorce after repeated verbal offenses against them.
Omer Amera, another social researcher, says a solution to the problem must be found. "A center for resolving family issues and providing training to husbands before marriage must be established."
Amera said: "An Islamic solution should be sought."
Badr Almotawa, a Saudi journalist, highlighted the role of certain Hollywood films in promoting family violence and urged authorities to prevent such films from being aired. He also called for spreading religious values in society to stop violence. "Being a religious society, we should be able to find a solution to this problem," he told Arab News.
Almotawa emphasized that a professional media presence could play a major role in solving many social issues in the Kingdom, including family violence. Mosques are another effective platform that should be used to educate the public.
"We have more than 50,000 mosques across the country and imams should be told to take up the issue in their Friday sermons."
He said that the family security program, which is supported by the various government agencies, including the Human Rights Commission, Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution and the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, would continue to play a significant role in reducing cases of family violence in the Kingdom.