A Reflecting Arab Muslim Girl From Around the Corner

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Abuse. (without the question mark).

I'm feeling very uneasy right now. I have a pile of work I need to finish for school that is due Thursday; my grandma is not feeling very well and is very weak; I have non-school things that I must get done this week too; and, my friends are coming to visit for the weekend so I need to make sure I'm done everything I need to by Thursday night. Bismillah...this will be quite the feat. Plus...I didn't workout for 2 days. That is not normal behaviour for me...it is as if something is out of place when I don't.

I'm also anxious because I've been meaning to write this post for a couple of days now and just never had the time. After the article was published on altmuslimah (see previous blog post on how I spoke to HEART)...I have been reading so many comments from readers on the story. At first, it was as if those comments were not about me at all. I felt like an observer, reading about Rania's story like everyone else. Then the comments on the blog began fluttering in...and a couple of emails were sent directly to me. It was a bit overwhelming. And, I cannot explain why.

When I see words of praise...of me being brave or strong....although I do appreciate it, it does not move me at all. I truly do not see brevity in what I am sharing. Instead, I just feel as if its the most natural thing for me to do. And strength...while I do feel stronger than before...I don't know...strength is something that comes from God alone and all credit is due to Him. Sometimes I feel very weak. Even the strongest of things face earthquakes once in a while. So I read the word, and move on. What I appreciate most about the dialogue that has emerged, however, is that I have been given a perspective I have not been exposed to ever before. I have not had anyone speak about the experience so openly and for them to share their thoughts in this way. It has been a lot to take in...but truly so important.

The other day, while walking to the Karate club, I thought to myself...'you know, what you experienced was abuse. and you were a victim of abuse.'

For the first time I feel like I can categorize the experience as abuse. One of the comments said that when we categorize what happened as a relationship, it masks the experience as something that was legitimate. And it was not legitimate. So, it should not be referred to by anything that gives it that impression. I agree.

Several comments talked about how it was certainly abuse, because when it began there was only one party that was able to make a free and informed decision. My going through with the experience...even it seemed 'consensual'...was not consent. There cannot have been consent on my part because neither was I making a free decision, nor an informed one. I was too young, and he was in a position of power - not only through age but also his status in my family and life.

Someone made a comment about my first post on this blog...about the experience I had where I was in sex-ed class in grade 9 and was asked the question about victims of sexual abuse feeling pleasure. The commenter wrote that that is part of the struggle...that victims of this type of abuse are stimulated sexually sometimes and the feelings that that gives our bodies confuses us. In our minds and hearts we know it is all wrong...but we are human with bodies that are stimulated by certain forms of touch or movement, and this is sometimes pleasurable, even in the most abusive of situations. Knowing that this was an issue that victims face - even victims of rape, the commenter wrote - certainly gave me a new perspective. Its like hearing...you can't stop your ears from hearing. Yes, we might not concentrate on what we are hearing, or we may try to block the sound...but we can't switch off our ears. Feelings of sexual stimulation are similar...and very very confusing and disturbing to a victim of abuse.

Another group of comments talked about how we do not do enough as a community to make sure that men know how they are supposed to treat women, and their responsibilities. We often tell our daughters to dress modestly...but how many families actually make it a point to give their sons robust training on how they need to treat women? And, when it comes to Muslim women in particular...if we are indeed one ummah, one family (and any Muslim organization will use the words 'sister' and 'brother' abundantly), then men must realize that they have a responsibility to make sure harm does not come to women in their community. They need to be raised to think like that...to internalize it and believe it to be true. - that I, as a 'brother' in Islam, must make sure I do what I can to ensure the comfort, safety and protection of my 'sister' in Islam. Please do not get me wrong...women do not 'need' to be taken care of by men - Allah is the Best of Protectors - but we live in a social word and if men adopted that mentality, I think a lot more good would exist. Call me idealistic, but no one can inhibit me from hoping.

Reading all the comments really made me see better how the whole experience was truly a form of abuse. I realize that I was so young when it started, that my youth was robbed off of me, and that even if I appeared to be consenting, I was not. And, the fact that this continued to adulthood was also not my fault...it started when I was so so young that it grew part of me - I was conditioned - and I could see no way out. And indeed, I saw no way out till I left the country...till I gave my mind a chance to develop independent of him. Alhamdulillah.

While walking to the Karate club, I also said one more thing to myself. I said 'you are also a survivor of abuse'. I enjoyed my workout that evening. Just the other day...given all these realizations, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God for all the blessings He has given to me. Doors are opening all around me, and I feel nour (light) in my life. God is the Greatest of Planners and the best of Providers. I feel I am being given so much Alhamdulillah...and I am filled with humility for I do not know how I am deserving of it all. I am utterly humbled...

When I think of him, I picture him in a small room, almost like a box, with an 'innocent' look on his face. I do not know why but he is wearing a baby blue t-shirt...his eyes droopy and maybe a bit glossy from tears. He is wondering what has happened. I truly am disgusted by that man. How dare his image of innocence fill that space in my mind. I just want him to leave it. I hate that image.

I told my cousin that I spoke to HEART, and she wanted to be directed to the article. I refused. (I love her to death, but perhaps I was feeling a bit sensitive that day. I told her that I think she knows all the details that are required, so she does not need to read the article, nor this blog. Perhaps it was the way I was asked...but I thought to myself, 'hey, I am not a story book'.) But, she said one more thing that has got me thinking a lot. My cousin wrote "Insha'allah one day when you are ready, you will speak to him and tell him exactly how you feel about what he has done...because he needs to know so that he can feel your struggle...if he can at all". I don't care to ever speak to him. And even more, I do not care to hear whatever excuses he may give. If he doesn't feel my struggle, especially now with how things are...how I have cut him out of my life...then he certainly has major issues.

But what do you think? Should me facing him about all this be something on my list of things to do?


  1. I think you should face him if, and only if, you feel very strong and secure in yourself, and if you know what you seek to achieve from it. I think it could be very healing and beneficial, but it could also be incredibly hurtful if he won't acknowledge what he did was wrong. Thinking of you, you're in my prayers.

  2. It is not necessary to face him, as Allah will take him to Account. I agree with Becky's comment, there is possible benefit, but also great risk in facing him -- not only from his reaction but from the reactions of others in our outside the family who might become involved.

    Psychologically, a central part of a traumatic experience like the one you endured for years, is that you don't have control over the situation. Facing him puts you back in front of the perpetrator, and again you will not have (complete) control. It would not be unusual for one who has experienced what you have to be so overwhelmed by your feelings in that situation, that you end up with further pain.

    As a Muslim trained as family therapist, who has counseled victims of abuse, I would say -- go slow...keep it on your list of possible things to do...but there is no hurry. It may well take quite a while for you to understand all the ways this has impacted your life. If you can find a good therapist you trust, it might help speed your healing.

    Congratulations on your courage in being able to talk about the situation at all, and for reaching out here on your blog to others.

  3. here's a book another Muslim survivor told me was powerfully helpful to her: E. Sue Blume: Secret Survivors.