A Reflecting Arab Muslim Girl From Around the Corner

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Is it abuse?

I was in grade nine. It was sex-ed class and all us girls were sitting in a circle.  The topic for that day's discussion was sexual abuse and sexual harassment. At the end of our talk, a short quiz was distributed.  When we finished, we proceeded to mark our own papers.

True or False: A victim of sexual abuse may feel pleasure.
I answered True.

The teacher repeated the question as we marked: "A victim of sexual abuse may feel pleasure. True?" While I was slowly raising my hand, in unison the class said "FALSE!"...as if to imply that the answer to that was so obvious.  The friend sitting beside me grabbed my hand and put it down.  She looked at me with curious eyes. In my heart, I was confused. But, I told her I did not understand the question.

And, I guess I still don't.  Legally, having a sexual relationship with a minor is unlawful - a heinous crime. But, what if I was a minor, and we never ever had sex? And, what if I was a minor, and we were physical...but without any form of penetration...and it was 'consensual'? What if he treated me very well...and I believed in him...Is that abuse?

I only ask now, more than a decade later, because while I no longer communicate with him, and while I once felt that I had truly been in love with him and that age was just a number (that age was my enemy, in fact, because the world would not understand), something in my deepest core knows that this was not right. It shouldn't have happened. A young child...of thirteen...or fifteen...even an eighteen year old...does not always know what they are doing. Today, I feel that I was a victim to the most subtle coercion.  But it was coercion.  I didn't know any better at that time. And no one even noticed that I was living this big secret. I was happy, excelled at school and was popular and loved. At that time, my moments of confusion were masked...sometimes even to myself.

Was it abuse?


  1. Yes, it was abuse. Yes, the worst things in the world for you can be pleasurable. Yes, he knew what he was doing was wrong and that the influence he had over you was being turned toward a very selfish end. No, it is not simple, he is also a victim of his own inabilities, but yes, it was abuse. Find in your core the means to recognize the ways in which his actions were turning his power over you into pure selfishness. That is a corrupt form of love, if it can even be called that since your feelings were not love as much as they were desire, guilt, concern. Love is not need although it may include need. Love is not lust, although it may possess lust. Love is not selfish, although it is the ultimate tonic for the self. Love is not anything but itself and it is a very weak but persistent force not unlike gravity. It compels us, but we don't feel it unless it is absent.

  2. I want to correct myself. It is not the case that we don't feel it unless it is absent, but rather that we feel it most intensely when it is absent.

  3. thank you for these comments. i truly appreciate the thought that you have put into them. you mention this 'find in your core the means to recognize the ways in which his actions were turning his power over you into pure selfishness' - and i have been trying to do that with these entries. what i need to work on is evaluating my role and whether i perhaps was more than just the victim

  4. I guess that's like asking whether or not the kid who's given a lot of candy by his parent and whose teeth rot as a result enjoyed the candy and should have known better? Yes, he enjoyed the candy, maybe he should have known better, but regardless of what he knew, he was put into a position that was beyond his ability to manage. It might also be the case that he didn't know better. His trust was purchased with pleasure. I think your trust was also compromised in the same way. Forgive yourself for being young and willing, forgive yourself for enjoying it. Understand that you were complicit but not guilty of the same things as your predator.

  5. Thank you wrinkledman. The analogy of the child with candy has been something I've carried with me since I read your comment. I do appreciate your input. Please continue to share yours thoughts.

  6. I'm going to concur with wrinkledman.
    Yes, what you went through definitely qualifies as abuse, and may be so much harder to handle because it was so subtle. Because it was pushed on you slowly. Because you yourself was confused about it. But it was abuse. You were a child. He took liberties and pressured you into things that you shouldn't have been dealing with or experiencing, especially not at that age. You were vulnerable and he took advantage of that.

  7. Salaam.
    Sister I saw the article on altMuslimah and I have to say that your story is so very sad. As a Muslim (though not Arab) I do understand the many levels of fear and anxiety that come with this. There is the fact that you were abused. There is the fact that it is so contrary and repellent to what we know to be appropriate as Muslims. There is the fact that he is a relative and therefore someone who should be trusted. There is Allah (SWA), and the guilt that comes with this and also the fear that in some way you may not be able to pass beyond this travesty in both this world and the next.
    May Allah guide and protect you sister and keep you safe from this person. I haven't read all of the posts here. They are interesting and well written, but at the same time scary and repellent. I have children of my own and I can only think of how I would feel if knew someone had done this to one of them, making them feel depressed and hurt and confused.
    What was he final resolution? How did you break away? Does your family know? And mostly, Are you happy now?

  8. I got directed to this blog by Zaufishan Muslimness on facebook. I'm in tears since yesterday since I have been reading all your posts. Sister you are very very brave. You have been abused no doubt and you are helping so many people through your worst experiences.You are opening the eyes of so many people about such a sensitive issue. May Allah bless you may He bless you with ease in every matter of life and He bless you hereafter.ameen

  9. Thank you all for your comments and prayers. May God protect us all. Your support has been a ray of light subhnallah.

    Khaalidah, thank you for your comment. My realizations have been relatively new - only since I started this blog in August of last year...but I have totally closed him off from my life. Sometimes it is unavoidable and I see him in family gatherings when I cannot get out of them...but we do not talk and I know he knows somehting is wrong...everyone knows. They notice the change but don't know how to ask about it. I broke away by moving away physically, distancing myself emotionally, through this blog, karate, good friends, prayer...and of course closing him off.

    No - my family knows nothing of this. It will devastate them...I have only told one cousin who is like an elder sister to me.

    Yes, I am happy Alhamdulillah :) Thank you for asking.

  10. Where do I start... having specialized in women's studies for my law doctorate, with a special focus on sexual violence and violence within the family, you should know (if you do not already) that criminologists and psychologists believe that not only the vast majority of sexual abuse is undiscovered/unreported to authorities, the vast majority happens within the family by blood relatives or close acquaintances, and interestingly the vast majority does not involve physical force. This is actually worse for the victims - victims who are violently raped and defend themselves ferociously tend to cope better than victims who were too shocked or scared to defend themselves, and even a lot better than victims who were manipulated and psychologically coerced. The lack of physical resistance for many becomes a source of stigma before the self, and much longer clouds the fact they are victims from them. You have taken giant steps by seeing you were victimised.
    I believe this blog could be beneficial to so many.. may i suggest you tagging it with search words/key phrases you may have searched for on the net when you were younger?
    Subhanallah, you developed into such a strong and confident woman despite all odds one would think!