Monday, October 27, 2014

Innocence Lost: Child Sexal Abuse

Originally published at 

An innocent sleepover with family members. An older cousin, an uncle, or a brother and his friends. Darkness, and hands clapped over a mouth to silence the screams, while they push themselves roughly against an unwilling victim.

Or maybe:

An older teacher, paying too much attention. Beckoning a young student to sit on his lap, giving them a treat, whispering threats in one ear to make the student promise to never, ever tell… or else.

And sometimes even:

A friend, a girl with charisma and energy, giggling about ‘learning something new.’ Ignoring protests, insistently, unwelcome hands touching without permission.

These are all examples of sexual violence – a crime that exists in all countries and societies, regardless of race, culture, class, or religion.

In Canada, one in every seventeen woman is raped at some point of her life; every 17 minutes, a woman is raped; 80% of assaults take place in the victim’s home; and one in four girls, and one in eight boys, are sexually abused by the time they turn eighteen.

In England, 85,000 women are raped on average every year; and 400, 000 women are sexually assaulted every year. One in 20 children have been sexually abused, and over 90% of them were abused by someone they knew.

Muslims are far from immune to crimes of sexual violence. The statistics are equally horrifying, if not worse because the number of reports tend to be much lower due to social stigma and lack of trust and access to the authorities.

In Pakistan, nearly 3,000 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2013; 40% of abusers were relatives, family friends, or acquaintances; and the most vulnerable age to abuse for both boys and girls was between 11 and 15.
In Egypt, 83% of Egyptian women reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once while half of them experienced it on a daily basis.

Despite these statistics – and numerous horrific anecdotes – sexual violence is an issue that Muslims all over the world still prefer to remain silent about. The stigma regarding sex, which may once have originated out of the Islamic concept of hayaa’ (modesty), has become a disease in and of itself, one that simply perpetuates un-Islamic beliefs and allows these filthy crimes to continue taking place on a daily basis.

An upcoming documentary, “Breaking Silence,” bravely confronts the deep-rooted cancer of sexual violence and particularly sexual abuse of children that exists in many, many Muslim families and communities.

As illustrated by the stories of four Muslim women who were sexually violated as children by those whom they trusted – whether family members or friends – even parents who are aware of the abuse often turn a blind eye or accuse their children of lying rather than admit the truth.

One major reason for the twisted attitudes existing regarding sexual violence amongst Muslims is an ignorance and lack of education about what Islam truly teaches about sex, including the difference between consensual sexual activity and sexual violence (whether against adults or children).

Despite the fact that the Shari’ah discusses and encourages a holistic sexual education from a young age, many Muslims prefer to follow deviant notions of ‘honor’ and ‘shame.’ The true shame and dishonor lies not in admitting that sexual violence takes place, but in allowing them to continue rather than to educate oneself, one’s children, and the entire community about Islamic values regarding sex.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his Companions were very honest and open about sexual education, even with regards to children.

'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Aswad narrates:
"My father used to send me to A'ishah and (as a child) I used to go to her (i.e. beyond the curtain). When I became adult (i.e. reached puberty; became baaligh), I came to her and called to her from behind the curtain: "O Umm al-Mu'mineen, when does the bath become compulsory?" She said: "So, you have done it, O Luka'! And (in answer to the question), when the private parts conjoin."
(Al-Dhahabi in Siyar A'lam an-Nubala)

The first thing Muslim parents must do is put aside their harmful cultural attitudes regarding sensitive subjects and to develop a positive, healthy relationship with their children – one based on loving communication. It is upon this foundation that a holistic Islamic sexual education can take place.

Understanding and implementing the earliest steps of Islamic sex education, such as teaching children about ‘awrah and privacy, and providing a safe emotional environment where children can know that they will be believed by their parents, is one major step that needs to be taken in order to effectively prevent child sexual abuse from taking place.

The Shari’ah has absolutely no tolerance for those who abuse the trust of innocent children, or those who violate others against their will, as demonstrated by the Hadd punishments for rapists (which can either be the punishment for zina[1] or, according to some scholars who consider sexual violence to be a form of terrorism, being crucified and having their limbs amputated[2]) – and the attitude of the global Muslim community needs to reflect this.

We absolutely cannot accept those in our families and communities to be able to perpetrate their crimes without holding them to account and sending them to face the legal repercussions.
Parents and guardians must realize that they need to be keenly aware of our children’s lives and of their responsibility to be true guardians over their charges.

There is never an excuse to place cultural notions of ‘family honor,’ ‘reputation’ and ‘shame’ over the physical, sexual and psychological safety of a child. On the Day of Judgment, any adult guardian who knowingly allowed their charges to continue to be harmed in any way will stand before Allah and be held accountable for the grave transgression of their duties.

Parents must know that Allah has given them children as an Amanah, a trust. On the Day of Judgment, they will be held accountable for their safety, security, and overall health.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master and he is responsible for it. Surely, every one of you is a shepherd and responsible for his flock.” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)

In short, it is the duty of every single Muslim to be aware of the existence and the seriousness of sexual violence in our societies, and to take every step necessary in order to eradicate it. Truly, Allah is the Most Just and praised this Ummah for being of those who enjoin the good and forbid the evil.

{You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.} (Qur’an 3:110)

May Allah make us of those who exemplify this verse, and truly enjoin the good and forbid the evil.



Anonymous said...

Jazakumullah khair for discussing this important issue.

Umameer Ann M. Lambert Stock said...

So important to get the word out. We need more support for survivors. They often do not feel capable of speaking out about what has happened... We need our children to feel secure enough to tell us about anything that has made them uncomfortable or that has happened...

Unknown said...

I didn't understand the ruling of cutting limbs, can you explain this please as i really want to share this article

Unknown said...

I didn't understand the ruling of cutting limbs, can you explain this please as i really want to share this article

Anonymous said...

Your conversation about child sexual abuse still omits the vast number of women who sexually abuse boys and girls. Your tone entirely erases my pain and suffering, the same way my family did when they said that "women don't do that" and "you imagined the whole thing" or "you were just confused". This kind of irresponsibility is ridiculous. It is why I have had major issues forming a bond with my daughter, because I don't know how to love another woman. Because of my abuse. I don't know how to show her love because someone who was trusted in my family only showed me hatred and shame. And feminists like you, all you do is ignore my plight because it is inconvenient for your "men vs. women" bias. Your rhetoric continually ignores my plight simply because I and tens of thousands of men and women worldwide who have been sexually abused by women get in the way of your neat, oversimplified argument.

You have betrayed me, another woman, in the name of liberating me! For shame.

Anonymous said...

But the article does mention female sexual abusers. All she did was talk about how we can stop it, not but blame on either gender.

AnonyMouse said...

Anonymous, I'm very sorry to hear about what you went through. However, I made a point in this article of *not* accusing only one gender of being male sexual abusers; female abusers exist as well. I have no intention of blaming one gender over another when both are accountable for whatever actions they do and whatever crimes they commit.