I decided to write about this painful memory after coming across a quote on my Instagram feed :
“Write about the things you are afraid of writing” , and so I built the courage to write about the things that keep me up at night, and haunt me in broad daylight. I built the courage to face a dark part of my life so that someone else could face theirs.
It took me five years until I was ready to tell someone about my sexual abuse, and today it is taking a lot of strength to reveal it to people I don’t even know. So I ask the ones reading this blog today to make sincere dua for me so I can move forward, and rise above what happened to me. Make dua that this unfortunate event does not decide who I become, rather I choose who I want to become.
I’d like to say I’m a survivor but I think I’m surviving; through my work, my writing, my studies, my passion for art and photography. I’m surviving through my friends, family and supportive husband. I’m surviving through my religion, my Qur’an, my prayers and my Dua’s. . . But some day’s are not like all days. Some days I feel dead , silent and alone… I’m zoned out, tired and fed up with my surroundings, some days I give up on myself and my dreams. . . but some days are not all my days. Although I’ve made it so far I feel as though my past tends to weigh me down. I can’t help to imagine how I would have grown to be if those tragic things didn’t happen to me. I wonder if I would have lived as a child longer if that monster didn’t burn away those precious summer days. As I move forward and beyond, I often wonder about what I could have done to stop him, to save myself and others around him; what could I have done to make him disappear! But the truth I know now is that there was nothing for me to do in a situation where a responsible adult takes advantage of you. I tell myself this, and tell this to you: There is nothing YOU, a child, a minor, a girl could possibly do to stop a grown man from coming onto you. He’s had it all planned out for years and months! What makes you think you’d ever break loose? He wanted you tied down, trapped and unable to move! But look … look at us now! How freely we fly with the scars of his noose. His words, his plans, his actions and chants now gone away, tucked into the past … the nightmare is over, the danger is gone. Regardless of how long ago the event had taken place I still remember little things that went on as I slowly killed myself with silence and restriction.
I was trapped on the 4th floor, helpless, confused in a spiritual war so to help my struggling soul I zoned out to focus on things that were within my control. I listened to my surroundings and all I heard was shouting, banging on rods and a voice calling out for open donations. The masjid next door was under construction and young kids from the neighborhood were singing nasheeds to help raise funds for construction.. As this monster destructed me, a beautiful structure was being built I often wish that all I’d remember is the beautiful structure and not my own destruction… but that’s not possible. I was able to hide away the images, and memories for a long time but my body remembers…. it remembers every touch, feeling, scent and pain. Every now and then my body reminds me that the trauma, anxiety and pain that still exists. It reminds me that although I’ve moved on, away and beyond this unpleasant memory it will continue to exist in the depths of my soul.
Years later I revisited the place where my surviving had began and saw that the masjid was no longer under construction , there was no more banging and no more donations required either. I felt relieved to know that regardless of all the evil that went on that summer, we (me and the masjid) stood strong and sturdy, we grew above and beyond and we both stand proud and firm with our complimentary surroundings.
Life After Death
We often wonder what life after death is like and most of us pray that Allah(swt) grants us entry into paradise after death but that’s not the life after death I’m talking about. When I say life after death , I mean the life that we survivors, or in my case the ones surviving are granted with after dying in the arms of a monster. I’m talking about the everyday activities, the daily meals and day-to-day schedules that must continue to go on even after your ‘deathly experience’. For a Muslim woman the only way to ‘live’ after being sexually abused, raped or assaulted; is to completely forget it ever happened. Until much recently I completely avoided any conversation or discussion based on sexual abuse out of fear that I’d give myself away. I feared that the entire community, my family and friends would know that I’m someone’s ‘damaged goods’, ‘impure’, ‘unchaste’ and ‘ruined’. I was in fear of being blamed, judged or questioned about my validity. But today I am confident enough in myself and in my innocence that what others say and think of me no longer matters. Coming to this point was not easy; talking about my sexual abuse has created a distance between me and many of my loved ones. I’ve lost contact with several friends and family members and often times I’m intimidated by weddings, gatherings and get togethers where I might I have to face my abuser.
I dream about moving to Bangladesh, to build a school , and maybe clinic to serve the less fortunate but I’m overwhelmed by fear when I realize my abuser his family, friends and followers all live in Bangladesh. In almost all my trips to Bangladesh I’ve faced people passing negative comments, remarks, blank stares at me as I walk through a place which my heart calls home. My abuser was able to convince everyone that my intentions are promiscuous , that I enjoy sexual relations with multiple individuals, that I am impure and unchaste, that I’m a whore, slut and an untouchable human being. And as expected … everyone believes, everyone believes that the 13 year old is to blame and not the 45 year old, that the child was responsible and not the grown man. That somehow being born in a ‘western’ country invalidated my efforts to being a good person because my thoughts, and behavior were invalid to begin with. What people have said, and continue to say hurts more than what that man did to me that year … but still I rise.
Alhumdulilah , my Creator has blessed with me enough strength, courage and patience to fight the negative remarks, to fight societies norms, and to fight for what is right. Allah has blessed me with the opportunity to reach out to victims of crime and abuse within and outside of my community, Allah has given me the chance to heal while I help others heal, and succeed while I help others succeed. As someone who is surviving everyday I hope that my work, my journey and my life serves as an example, an inspiration and a reminder to victims and survivors that healing is possible and with time it the scars, bruises and burns will heal. For my sisters in pain, trauma and in the healing process I make sincere Dua that Allah grants you strength, courage and patience to fight and become stronger than you’d ever imagine possible.
An open message :
Recently I’ve received phone calls, messages and letters from several sisters and this is my message to them:
To the 12 year old who very bravely stated that she’s still a virgin because rape can’t take that away: YES, yes my love you’re completely right rape can’t take anything away until we let it.
To the senior in highschool: I commend you for being so courageous and bold regardless of the pain you’ve endured,.
To the 17 year old: I’m sorry the community isn’t ready to hear your voice, I’m sorry your family doesn’t understand and I’m sorry that you can’t access any assistance because being a victim is just not allowed yet.
Our friends, family, and community members need to stand with us and not against us and I pray that with time and much effort this happens. No one should have to go through such a traumatic event alone , and no one should have to be blamed for something they had no control over. We as a community must stand against sexual abuse and condemn the oppressive, and inhumane behaviors of predators within our community. We must learn to support and fight for our survivors , we must learn to protect them from further abuse, and we must learn to heal with them in their healing process.
The Muslim Community :
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network) the nation’s largest anti sexual violence organization:
“ The term “sexual violence” is an an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. Many of these crimes are described below. Please note that the legal definition of crimes vary from state to state. There are often other crimes and forms of violence that arise jointly with crimes like sexual assault, and these are described as well.”
In the Muslim community we have made it a Taboo subject to talk about sex; so it’s no surprise that we don’t even recognize sexual violence within our community. In fact some of us are even reluctant to talk about sexual body parts, and the process of having children because it just might ruin the ‘innocence’ within the youth and unmarried population. But what we fail to realize is this social stigma poisoning our community. Men/Women with evil intentions are taking advantage of this social stigma to feed their own desires and nafs. Perverts, rapists, sexual abusers, molesters and pedophiles are given an advantage within the Muslim community because no one know’s how to address a conversation involving sex and sexual body parts. I’m not saying that our community needs to openly talk about sex all the time, but our community needs to promote positive sexual relationships such as sex after marriage, our community needs to provide preventive education against sexual abuse, our community needs to recognize that this evil does occur and that rather than putting the topic in the dark we need to address it. When we talk to our youth about halal sexual relationships, and halal routes to sexual relationships we are actively educating them that the uncle/aunty next door has no right or reason to put her hand down your salwar (pants), that the brother/sister at Sunday school has no reason to give you uncomfortable hugs; regardless of age, status or position you are entitled to your own privacy. No one has the right to approach you sexually in any manner, form or way.
We as a community avoid talking about sexual abuse, rape, unsafe touches; as if avoiding this matter will magically make it disappear. But the truth is when we refrain from talking about ‘healthy sexual relationships’ we are promoting unhealthy sexual relationships, when we stop talking about rape and sexual abuse we are promoting it. Every time we fail to recognize that there is a flaw in our community we only create more flaws, add more evil and create more tension. Talking and learning about sex does not encourage promiscuity and premarital sex but rather encourages our community members to engage in halal sexual relations. It teaches our youth to address their physical and emotional needs in ways that Allah has made permissible in ways that does not harm , oppress another. When we openly talk about safe and unsafe sexual behaviors we educate our children and youth that sexual violence, abuse, rape, and assault is not acceptable. When we start talking against this evil we start fighting for what is right and that is the true face of Islam. Fighting for what is right, promoting against evil acts… and not avoiding it.
For Muslim survivors, and victims it is extremely difficult and almost impossible to seek help from friends, family and community members because of the stigma and negative association around sex. The positive association around remaining a virgin until marriage, and avoidance of premarital sex makes it extremely difficult for victims to talk about their experiences. Letting others know that they are no longer virgins because of sexual abuse makes it challenging for victims to admit being sexually abused. I have attached a link below that addresses myths about sexual assault in the muslim community and I strongly urge everyone to take a look at it, so that you think twice before you pass judgement about yourself or someone who has been sexually abused or assaulted.
The Heart Women & Girls Center posted a document on Myths About Sexual Assault in the Muslim Community that I found to be extremely useful in the work that I do. I encourage everyone to take a look and share: http://heartwomenandgirls.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Myths-and-Facts-about-Sexual-Assault_Muslim.pdf