This article is Part 1 of an ongoing series of articles under the project, ‘The Silent Survivors: A Voice From The Violated’
What do you feel when you read these words?
For some of us, these words may feel foreign and remote. Some might feel ashamed and for many, it may feel relatable, triggering and upsetting.
Regardless of what we feel, this topic is of utmost importance today. It is one that cannot be spoken about enough. In many cultures, it is a taboo and it is shunned for its sensitive nature and what it relates to. So many voices have been drowned out by the silence. So many hearts broken. So much injustice done. So many children whose childhood was snatched away from. So many broken adults still struggling to come to terms with their traumatic past.
This series about Sexual Abuse brings you the true stories, facts, figures, Islamic perspective and the support. Aimed at raising awareness by hacking at the roots, to provide resources to help and assist the victims and those affected by sexual abuse.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ، وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الْإِيمَانِ
“Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse is a sexual behavior or a sexual act forced upon a woman, man or child without their consent. It includes abuse of a woman, man or child by a man, woman or child. Under the umbrella of sexual abuse is molestation, which is the action of pestering or harassing someone in an aggressive or persistent manner, and rape whereby one penetrates another person with their privates.
The explicit nature of this topic might make you feel disgusted, distressed, embarrassed, angry and possibly triggered. Be reassured that it is normal to feel so. In fact, there are so many people around the world who have been victims to these kinds of abuse, including Muslims, who found that their culture blamed them, their fellow brothers or sisters dismissed them, or even worse, their families abandoned them.
A victim, whether of Sexual Abuse or any other kind of abuse is someone who has been ill-treated and is extremely vulnerable and NOT blameworthy. To be blamed for being the cause of what happened to them is damaging to their entire being.
It might be widely assumed that those who practice the religion may not encounter such an act. For doesn’t our religion ask us to lower our gaze? Aren’t we meant to cover as protection from Fitn? Someone might do all these things, follow the religion to a T; yet if Allah is to test them with such a trial, then no one can avert it. He doesn’t test a person beyond their scope.
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 286]
However, the person who carries out the abuse, made the choice to do so, put aside their morals and ethics (if any) and gave in to their Nafs, and will be held accountable for their misdeeds. If not in this life, then for sure in the next.
وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ اللَّهَ غَافِلًا عَمَّا يَعْمَلُ الظَّالِمُونَ إِنَّمَا يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ لِيَوْمٍ تَشْخَصُ فِيهِ الْأَبْصَار
“And never think that Allah is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. He only delays them for a Day when eyes will stare [in horror].” [Ibrahim: 42]
If you are a victim reading this, I pray reading this verse brings an ounce of peace to your heart.
An abuser is someone who has been swayed by the whispers of Shaytan. However, it is important to note that, if someone who has done this, repented, then Allah would forgive them, if they were to sincerely change their ways, Allah is the Most Merciful.
Despite this, there would be no change in the consequences or the result of that abuse, especially if it was prolonged or happened in one’s childhood. The damage lasts their entire life, and affects their perspectives and beliefs.
But, there’s always hope. Healing can happen. It’s about getting the right help from supportive people around us, from helplines, from books, from organizations who make it a priority to help such victims, and from our religion. Our Deen is a way of life and it gives us hope in all situations we may find ourselves in. We are not people of despair.
وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِين
إِن يَمْسَسْكُمْ قَرْحٌ فَقَدْ مَسَّ الْقَوْمَ قَرْحٌ مِّثْلُهُ وَتِلْكَ الْأَيَّامُ نُدَاوِلُهَا بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَلِيَعْلَمَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَيَتَّخِذَ مِنكُمْ شُهَدَاءَ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِين
So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.
If a wound should touch you - there has already touched the [opposing] people a wound similar to it. And these days [of varying conditions] We alternate among the people so that Allah may make evident those who believe…” [Surah 'Aal Imran, 139-140]
The Series On Sexual Abuse Is Aimed to:
- Highlight the struggles faced by victims of abuse through true stories and encounters from two sisters who volunteered to share their story;
- Reflect on how Deen and Quran can help someone on their journey of healing;
- Share facts and figures to highlight the importance of this topics;
- Explore traumatic experiences in the Seerah and Islamic history and the tools that were used to help deal with them; and
- Provide hope, support and resources for victims and those affected.
But first, let’s have a look at the figures:
These are not mere ‘numbers’, these are real people, real men, women and children whose encounter has been recorded and noted down to signify just how much sexual abuse takes place in our world.
Let’s Ask Ourselves As We Read:
- Who makes up the majority of sexual abuse cases? (men, women, children)
- How many of the cases hail from the Muslim world?
- Which culture is most affected by this?
According to the United Nations, 1 in 3 women across the world have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. Usually, by intimate partners.
In some countries, the rate of violence against women is as high as a staggering 70%.
With regards to the Arab and Muslim world, 37% of Arab women have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. There are indicators that the percentage might be higher. Many cases are underreported due to fear, so the chances of a higher percentage are probable.
Nearly 4 in every 10 of all women victims of homicide worldwide are killed by intimate partners or people they know.
Women and girls make up 70% of all known human trafficking victims.
Adult women constitute 50% of the total number of trafficked people.
Rapists are often shown leniency or even acquitted in the Arab Region if they married their victims. In Morocco, article 475 of the penal code, which allowed rapists to avoid prosecution if they marry their victims, was repealed in 2014, following the suicide of a rape victim who was forced to marry her rapist.
More than 6 in every 10 women survivors of violence refrain from asking for support or protection of any sort. The remaining ones who do speak up turn to family and friends for this support or protection. Globally, the total direct and indirect costs of violence against women for countries are estimated to be as high as 1-2% of Gross National Product. At the global level, this amounts to millions of dollars. (Source: UN Women)
SubhanAllah. After reading those statistics, we realize that over half our population is in some way affected or knows someone affected by this issue, and yet we find almost no articles in the Islamic internet world, and lack of literature on this subject. And you know what they say right? "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
The trees are falling, and it’s time to be around to hear it.
- Joint Article by Wafa Jameel (Clinical Psychologist) and Madiyah Rana
Note: This series of articles involves and is written in consultation with clinical psychologists and other industry professionals.
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