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Parental Discretion Advised
If you are a parent of children who read posts on MM, then this is one that you should read yourself first, before allowing them to read it, so that you can judge the benefit/harm. One benefit is that if there is any child, who has gone through such a situation, it may open a channel for him/her to discuss it with you.
General Reader Discretion Advised
Reader discretion is advised as some content is graphic, but I felt NECESSARY to include, in order to fully understand and appreciate the grave situation.
A Note on Comments:
If comments are related to future topics, I will likely hold them back (i.e. moderate them) until we get to those topics. So, please don't worry if you see your comments missing. And also unrelated comments could be removed.
Some links, when available, will open up separate posts, unless indicated otherwise:
- A. Approaching Their Families
- B. Emotional & Psychological Damages
- C. Personality Damages (This Post)
- D. Intimacy & Marital Relationship (This Post)
III. Prevention & Advice for the Victims' Families
IV. Healing is Possible: Advice for the Victims
V. Advice for the Molesters
Part II C/D
1. Extreme Personalities:
The development of extreme personalities within the victims is a very crucial point to understand. Given that there is a high percentage of victims within our Muslim Ummah, we must understand the effect it has at personal and communal levels. Not all extreme personalities are a direct result of molestation but many victims of molestation do end up developing extreme personalities, like being extreme about discipline to the level of dictatorship, or extreme about cleanliness to the level of perfection, or extreme negligence, or extreme mood swings, or extreme dependence or complete lack of dependence. Often times they either become too attached to someone or they completely cut themselves off from others, and that is why they have difficulty building healthy relationships.
Since religion is a major aspect of a Muslim's life, when a Muslim is molested and her personality is affected, her Islamic personality is equally affected. In cases where victims suffer this disorder, they inevitably develop extremism towards religion too. I repeat that not all, or even most cases of “religious extremism” are due to molestation of course, so let this not be misunderstood.
a) Abandoning the Religion:
The victims often secretly question the decree of Allāh, especially when they don't seek out help through the right channels or when their families refuse to support them. This usually leads to extreme reactions. Shaytaan takes this as a golden opportunity to make them feel “abandoned by God,” and there always remain a possibility of them completely turning away from the Islam.
b) Religious Extremism:
On the flip side, the victims can also become extreme in their religion.
Maleeha, from Morocco, was molested by her uncle in her country. Although she now resides in U.S., she has developed an extreme personality. She has an extreme attitude towards her religion and she makes everything very harsh and difficult upon herself and others. For example, she considers matters such as walking about within her neighborhood without a mahram, haram. It seems the more difficulty she has to go through, the more satisfied she is, as if she is punishing herself. She is also very strict with her children. Instead of developing a close relationship with them, she seems quite cold and distant from them, and imposes very strict disciplinary rules around the house.
A Muslim doctor who herself was a victim in her childhood agreed with this assessment and that she, too, is guilty of having developed an extreme personality. Her recovery through proper Islamic education has helped her control her “religious extremism” but some of her other extreme personality traits remain in her, however, walhamdullilah she continues to improve.
Yet, in some instances the victims develop personalities that fluctuate in extremes.
Shama was repeatedly raped at a young age by her cousin, who was also her neighbor. Her mother was well aware of the situation but chose to put her head in the sand. Her cousin continuously took advantage of her whenever she was alone in the house. Although Shama is now married and has children, she is still traumatized by her childhood memories, switching between phases of extreme religiousness and complete passiveness towards her religious obligations, including abandoning the five daily prayers. When she is in her “extreme” phase of life, she is extreme about everything and not just Islam, but when she becomes passive, she is passive about everything, including ignoring her two little children.
As we will see, it is not only their normal and religious lives that are affected by the extremes in personalities, but also their marital life is equally troubled because of their severe approaches.
This is another area where the effect of molestation does not stay limited to the victim alone, but extends heavily beyond the victim, especially when the victim is married. It is a topic rarely understood and definitely a taboo amongst Muslims. When a little girl is exposed to sexual activities in a reprehensible way and at an unsuitable age, the effects are very harmful on her perception and application of sex.
Of course, we would all pray that the victim of molestation would remain a practicing Muslim. But a practicing Muslim woman will only seek sexual activity with her husband. So when a young Muslimah is molested, even if inshā'Allāh her faith remains intact, the full consequences of the sexual abuse she suffered will probably first become apparent when she marries.
1. Sex Linked to Sexual Abuse:
Being introduced to sex at such a young age, and in such a guilt ridden and disgusting manner, it is only natural that these victims develop a distorted perception of sex. Hence, when they first encounter intimacy with their husbands, they mistake sex as abuse rather than an expression of love. Given that molestation involves sexual contact, sexual body parts, and sexual stimulation, sadly, sexual abuse becomes their model for future sexual encounters.
In many cases, being intimate with their husbands brings back memories of past episodes of being molested, thus they become confused with feelings of hatred for the molester and love for the husband, for the same type of act. The conflation of confusion and emotion drives these victims away from intimacy, and from developing strong affectionate feelings towards their husbands. Sex or sexual activities makes them insecure and puts them in negative and bitter phases of mind.
It is not easy to get over these negative emotions. People who have not experienced sexual abuse may think it should be easy and quite logical to separate the molester from the husband, but that is simply not true. When victims grow up in utter confusion, mistrust and misconceptions about sex and intimate relations, it is not so simple for them to brush it away. The damage done to these young, innocent minds is worse because their personalities are developed with the ongoing damage, rather than facing a mishap at an older age when personality traits are more well-established (such that the positive experiences will help alleviate the negative ones better).
These intimacy problems have caused serious marital issues for the sisters I have dealt with. Imagine that the vast majority of victims never reach out to get help in Muslim countries (though this phenomenon is changing among Western Muslims). They don't talk about the problems they face in their marriage especially concerning intimacy, because it is considered a taboo in most of our societies “back home”. They fail to connect their fear of intimacy with the mishap of their childhood. In addition, they are forced to work out their marriage problems on their own. So what are the consequences?
a) Reject sex in totality
b) Sex becomes a repulsive “job” for them to perform in order to obey and please their husbands
a) Rejecting sex in totality:
- In this case how do the Muslim husbands react?
Do they discuss the issue with their wives? Perhaps, and this subject needs further research.
- Do they seek out help?
Probably not because as I stated, it is a taboo in the Muslim world to talk about sexual matters.
- Do they send their wives home for their families to talk to them?
In such a case, womenfolk of the family only force their daughters to become the sexual “tool” for the husbands as a “religious” obligation. They never bother to find out why the daughter is having problems to begin with.
- Do they eventually divorce their wives?
Keeping in mind that divorce, too, is a taboo among many Muslims, the husbands could feel trapped between one taboo and the other.
Or do the husbands resort to marital rape?
Can this be one of the underlying reasons of martial rape amongst Muslims (of course this is not an excuse to condone this type of behavior)? This will be another topic of discussion in the future, inshā'Allāh.
Although Shama has two children she never managed to differentiate between normal sex and sexual abuse. She couldn't discuss this issue openly with anyone, and is now facing serious marital problems. She developed hatred for her husband, because she could not differentiate between her molester and her husband. And now she has moved out to a shelter home, leaving her two children behind.
Rizwana, another woman residing in U.S. who was molested by her father in Pakistan, would hit her husband, hurt herself and call the police on her husband, and eventually ended up becoming permanently addicted to anti-depressants. Later her husband sent her back to Pakistan along with the children. Last I heard she had come back but I don't know whether her situation has improved.
Did the husbands of these women ever try to get to the root of the problem? Can they be blamed for not seeking out advice? Can I be blamed for not advising their husbands about this issue, i.e. are the Muslim men in our society willing to take advice from a sister? These are the topics of yet another discussion.
b) Lack of sexual interest:
Depending on the type and length of the molestation, some women don't react as severely but still develop a lack of sexual interest, because in one way or the other it reminds them of their molester. These victims don't initiate intimacy, don't like to be fondled, and sex is nothing more than a “duty” for them. Many of these victims never fully enjoy sexual intimacy either (i.e. reach their climax).
I have often heard many women refer to intimacy as a “task” rather than an affectionate natural desire towards their husbands. I used to think that their husbands didn't fulfill their responsibilities properly. Now, I think that one missing piece of the puzzle could quite possibly be in these women's pasts.
Noreen, who sought help through the religion and has recovered for the most part māshā'Allāh, nevertheless told me that she still has not developed an interest in intimacy. Until now, her sex-life is nothing more than a religious “obligation” towards her husband. Although she loves her husband very much and has what one would term as a “happy marriage”, it seems that she was never able to overcome her negative perception of sex. Allāh knows best, but perhaps if she had received proper help at the young age when the abuses occurred, instead of being accused of imagining the abuse by her own mother, she may have successfully separated between lovemaking and sexual abuse.
But what about the larger group of sisters who are not receiving proper help? Do their husbands diligently search for solutions to their wives' lack of sexual interests? Or do they find “other” avenues to spice up their sexual life?
3. Precocious (Early Development) Sexuality:
This must not be confused with precocious puberty. Precocious puberty is natural physical growth and cannot be controlled like hair growth, breast growth etc. In order to understand the precocious sexuality, I give the example of two kids; one grows up in an exposed environment watching MTV, pornographic magazines, and a lot of exposure to sexual environment vs. the other kid who grows up in a rather monitored and protected environment. The first child will most likely have a precocious sexuality compared to the later one.
Precocious sexuality, in the context of these articles, is a direct result of molestation. Some victims develop too much sexual desire as a reaction to being exposed to sex and sexual activities early and inappropriately. It may also be a way of self-destructive behavior.
Although I only came across one sister who suffered this type of reaction, a simple Google search on victims' behavior indicated that there are many victims who suffer this backlash.
Sarah, who grew up going to Islamic schools in U.S., was molested by her own brother, iyyadhobillah. Her mother was actively involved in the masjid and Islamic school but perhaps she failed to keep a balance at home (which is, unfortunately, becoming quite common among parents who are actively involved in the community). Sarah went through unusual and very severe reactions in different stages of her life. Between junior high and high school, she developed too much sexual desire and totally rebelled against her family. Drugs and boys were her two ways of finding satisfaction away from her miserable situation at home. Or it could be that this was her form of destructive behavior. Drugs were her way of destroying her health and boys were her way of destroying her body and spirituality. Although now she is married and has children, I cannot say for sure that she has gotten over her problem or that she has a good intimate marital life.
To be continued…
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