Domestic Violence – A Painful Reality
October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please re-post this article, others or any resources in order to create dialogue on this issue to show that silence and ignorance are not options any longer.
I demanded to know if this sister was doing all right, if she had considered calling the police or not and if my mom’s friend had ever thought to intervene.
“We can’t do too much,” she responded. “If we call the police, who knows? We might ruin their marriage for life.”
‘As if their relationship could even be called a marriage’, I thought. ‘I hope she gets help.’
What has changed is that in a scenario like that of my mom’s friend’s friend, I would not simply look at a woman and judge her for staying or not staying. I would not assume that there is no love between the couple or that they are facing bad times. However, I would know that there are many instances of underlying control, which is used by abusers to maintain their dominance in a relationship. I would not simply assume that the woman is weak and the man is strong (or in a different situation if the woman is the abuser, vice versa). Rather, there can be deeper issues of insecurity, unhealthy attachments, and a history of abuse within the individuals’ families. What has indeed changed is that I would try to let the survivor know: you are not alone. It is not your fault. There is help available if you seek it.
What has, unfortunately, remained the same is the prevalence of domestic abuse in the larger community and specifically in our Muslim community. What has not changed is the ignorance and silence surrounding this issue. What has sadly not changed are myths surrounding abuse.
Abuse or assault is not an anger issue. It is an issue of control.
Abuse or assault is never the victim’s fault. It is always the fault of the aggressor.
What has remained the same since that scenario is that there is still silence and denial in the Muslim community that domestic violence and sexual assault exist. Just because we are striving to follow Islam, the beautiful religion of peace and submission to God, does not mean we as Muslims are perfect. On the contrary, abuse exists at the hands of even so-called ‘practicing’ Muslims. Further, domestic abuse remains a taboo topic in society as a whole. A woman in the United States is abused or raped every nine seconds, according to the American Medical Association. Moreover, one in every four women has experienced abuse in their lifetime and one in every thirteen men have experienced abuse as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If this traumatizing behavior exists at such a high rate, why are we still silent? Have we forgotten the Prophetic saying:
“Whoever sees something evil should change it with his hand. If he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot do even that, then in his heart. That is the weakest degree of faith.” (Sahih Muslim)
We must remain vigilant of this issue, whether it is happening to us or whether it is happening to those around us. This involves breaking down myths. One myth is that domestic abuse affects women only. This is not the case – men are affected too. Another myth is that domestic abuse does not affect women who observe modest dress. This is not the case either.
So what can we do?
- Never feel afraid to reach out, whether to a friend, family member, counselor or respected member of the community. If you feel an anonymous voice is better, local hotlines are available too. On the other side of the coin, be a voice, be an ear, be aware of when abuse may be occurring in the community. It’s not your job to be Superman and ‘save’ the person; not at all, it is the individual’s choice and right to make a decision. But always leave the door of support open.
- Educate ourselves about the signs of abuse and the cycle of violence. The Mayo Clinic lists a few key signs of abuse that are important to know and show that abuse is not only physical; it can also be verbal, emotional, physical or sexual.
3. Educate ourselves about the resources available in our communities. For instance, did you know that there are 24-hour crisis hotlines available? Did you know there is a wealth of knowledge out there, even grounded in Islamic perspectives?
4. Increase our reliance on and relationship with our Creator, Allah (swt). We will be rewarded for bearing this test, for our struggles, our patience and resilience. But our patience should not lead to inaction. Our reliance on God comes with the responsibility that we do what we can and Allah takes care of the result. But if we are not even trying to change our situation, remember: “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Qur’an 13:11)
5. Remind ourselves of our self-worth. Allah created us to worship Him and to live healthy, fulfilling lives to the best of our abilities. Abuse does not come under those categories. Our guide and role model, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), never showed such behavior. Let us ask ourselves: are we better than the Prophet (pbuh) to think such behavior is acceptable?
6. Increase education and discussion on these topics in our community. What are our mosques and community centers doing about domestic abuse? Are there khutbahs (sermons) on this topic, even once a year?
7. Break the cycle of abuse by raising healthy and responsible children with secure attachments. Teaching respect, boundaries, tolerance and, most of all leading by an Islamic example of mercy, is crucial.
8. Support Muslim and non-Muslim initiatives to fight this societal evil. Support Muslimat al-Nisa (Baltimore, Maryland) or NISA (San Jose, CA) which are women’s shelters which are not receiving enough support from our communities.
9. Take this survey led by the Peaceful Families Project which measures attitudes on domestic violence within the Muslim community.
My friend had a very unique Facebook status: “Hurt people hurt people.” It resonated with me. And I wonder, what will I, what will we do, to make sure we can eliminate that hurt from our communities as best as we can? It starts with ourselves.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ‘Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.’ A man asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I (know how to) help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?’ He (pbuh) said: ‘You can restrain him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him.’” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
Commendable Domestic Violence Series at MuslimMatters.org
Peaceful Families Project: http://www.peacefulfamilies.org/resources.html
Domestic Violence National Hotlines and Resources: http://fmpac.org/911/crisis.html
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
Originally published at Al-Bayan