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Sex & the Ummah: Child Abuse Prevention & Advice for the Victims’ Families Part III

Published

Part I | Part II- A/B | Part II- C/D | Part III | Part IV-A | Part IV-B | Part V

A PDF version will be available on conclusion for printing/distribution

Some links, when available, will open up separate posts, unless indicated otherwise:

I. Molesters

II. Victims and Their Struggles

III. Prevention & Advice for the Victims’ Families

IV. Healing is Possible: Advice for the Victims

V. Advice for the Molesters

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Before I start the last part of my article, I would like to point out yet another problem within our ummah that facilitates many harmful side effects like the topic of our discussion. And that problem is some parents’ dislike of daughters.

This ignorance is equally widespread among the upper class, educated Muslims as it is among poor/middle class less-educated Muslims. When parents, especially mothers, have these negative vibes towards their daughters, they do not develop a close relationship with them, and generally fail to provide their daughters the protection that a parent normally gives out of natural love.  Often times, mothers do not hold back their negative emotions from relatives/close friends and it becomes easier for the molesters to take advantage of disliked daughters in such situations.

I am not going to discuss this issue in depth because it is not the purpose of my article. However, I beseech parents to put aside these feelings that shaytaan generates in them, which forces them to be unjust. I especially implore the mothers to put themselves in their daughters’ shoes and treat their daughters how they would have liked to be treated by their parents. Here and here are some rewards of raising daughters.

III. SOLUTIONS

As we read in previous parts of this series, because of the severity and lasting damage molestation can have on our children, it is our primary responsibility to take proper precautions to protect them from ever becoming targets.

Dear parents, think back to the day you first laid eyes on a tiny body, wiggling and squirming: your own baby, your own flash and blood. You held the feeble, helpless child in your arms, and you counted the ten fingers and ten toes, and checked and double checked to make sure everything was okay with him or her. You probably remember being nervous; your mind hit fast forward as you thought about the life that awaited your child. How would you teach your infant all that there was to learn? How would you protect your baby from all the evil in the world? How would you give your most cherished treasure everything you possibly could?

Remember these thoughts and emotions that you felt for your new-born baby, as you read through this article. Insha’Allah it will help you in making a commitment to yourself that nothing as vile as sexual abuse and molestation ever enters your son or daughter’s life. Let us not forget that parents, the mother and the father, are shepherds of their children and both parents will be questioned about their flock:

Each one of you is shepherd. And each one of you will be asked about your flock. A ruler also is a shepherd and he will be asked about his flock. And every man is a shepherd to his family. And a woman is the custodian of her husband’s house and his children. Thus each one of you is shepherd, and each one will be asked about his flock [Bukhari and Muslim].

A. Prevention:

Before I discuss the role of the victims\’ parents and the healing methods for the victims themselves, let me give a few tips to the parents on how to prevent the situation.

1. I implore you again and again: the key to prevention is open communication between parents and children, throughout the children’s lives.

2. Once they reach the age of 4-5 teach them about their body parts, including their private parts and how they need to protect them. Teaching them about their private parts will NOT take away their innocence, neither will it give them any dirty ideas.

3. Tell them about molesters and how there are some bad people who like to touch other people\’s private parts and do bad things. Tell them if anyone ever tries to do this to them, they should scream and run to you and assure them that you will be there for their support.

4. Tell them that many bad people will tell them that they will kill them or their family members, or that they will tell them not to talk to anyone about it. Assure your child that these are just empty threats and they only do so to scare them. Remind them that you are the good guys, and anyone who makes threats are the bad guys. Teach them that if anyone every tries to touch their private parts or in a way that makes them uncomfortable along with these threats, they should immediately tell their parents.

5. Between the ages of 7-10 have a Sex-Ed talk with them. Do not leave this task for anyone else. This is YOUR job, especially in this day and time, and very essential to develop an open communication. This discussion must be done by a parent himself/herself. Teach them with the proper Qur’anic verses and ahadeeth. Teaching the children in this manner has a very positive impact on them; they neither lose their innocence nor does it take away from their shyness. In fact, when taught with proper Islamic references, they develop more shyness and a better sense of protecting themselves. [InshaAllah I am working on another article that will provide details on this topic]

6. Do not trust your child with every other relative. If you grew up around some relatives and they were good, then perhaps, you can trust your child with them as well, however, STILL be cautious.

7. Talk to your child and ask them, from time to time, if anyone ever tried to touch them inappropriately.

8 . Keep checking with your children every so often, asking them if they have any concerns that they might want to discuss with you. Sometimes, to break the ice and make the children comfortable, parents have to ask questions in specific words if the children have any questions about body parts or private areas.

9. Dress them properly even when they are very young. Do not clothe them with a small underwear under a dress. Use clothing that will give them maximum coverage. Do not put provocative dresses on little girls.

10. Do not allow young children to sleep with older relatives (except fathers) even in a young age. And separate their beds, even from the parents, once they reach the age of 10. Be very assertive of this rule.

11. Be watchful of any relative/friend who might show “extra” physical affection to your child, or likes to be alone with them. Do not become paranoid but at the same time do not be negligent, be cautious and keep your eyes open.

12. Be watchful of your child\’s behavior especially under the age of 5, when they are unable to verbally express themselves. If frequently visited by extended family/friends and you notice sudden hesitation to be around one of the relatives, or if they become fearful around a certain individual, talk to your child. Ask your child if that relative ever tried to hurt him/her. Keep a close eye on that relative.

13. Teach your children to share everything with you and to be aware of people who tell them to hide things from their parents.

14. If you notice your child showing unusual physical affection to you or to anyone else, then be cautious.

15. Implement Islamic boundaries in your household, like separating of the beds, modest clothing, clear distinction between maharim and non-maharim (although and unfortunately many molesters are among the maharim, iyyadhobillah).

16. Read daily adhkaar on your children and make them read those too, and continue to make du’a for their protection.

B. Some Signs of Molestation:

Bedwetting
Nightmares and other sudden fears (sudden, unexplained fear/dislike for someone)
School phobia
Inappropriate knowledge of sex or sexual parts
Showing strange sexual behaviors (for example a 2 year old girl, lifting her mother\’s shirt and kissing her mother\’s    stomach and chest)
Isolation, withdrawal, depression, nervousness
Sudden rage or anger or rebelliousness
Changes in appetite, sleeping disorder
Complaining of pain or soreness in genital areas, UTI, etc.

Again, as parents we should be so involved in our children\’s lives that we should be able to immediately detect any unusual behavior in them. There should be communication between parents and children on a daily basis. Parents, especially mothers need to be well-aware of what goes around in their children\’s lives.

By now, readers might have acknowledged that I am a big proponent of communication. I don’t claim to be an ideal parent but I believe in the power of communication. My daughter is 11 and home schooled. Just three weeks ago, she told me about one of her friends from her homeschooling group, Trisha (not real name), was raped by her father. I thanked Allah in my heart for allowing me to talk to my daughter about sex, rape, and molestation etc. beforehand. I also appreciated that she trusted me enough to tell me about this. I asked her to talk to Trisha and find out more details. Apparently, Trisha, now 12, was first raped when she was 5. Her father told her that although he was sorry for what he had to do, but his wife didn’t fulfill his needs.

To make the long story short, CPS was notified via the home school teacher, and another Muslim parent whose daughter was Trisha’s classmate. Now Trisha and her brother are in foster home, and the father is in jail.

C. Role of Victim’s Parents:

As for those parents, who have been approached by their daughters about molestation, this is a time that they need support and security, and they need you now, more then ever, to be a true parent to them.

Remember, at times the abuse is not as damaging as the reaction of the family. In fact, many times the abuse itself can be healed simply by the support and love parents offer to their daughters. So the parents\’ role in this situation is far more crucial then the victims\’ or the abusers\’.

1) Listen to her and understand her: I assure you that a four year old or even a ten year old cannot imagine the details of molestation. If your child fails to provide you with the details, then perhaps there is a chance that it may have been her imagination. But still do not disqualify her claim in total: research and find out until you become absolutely sure that it was her imagination. Then you have to worry about why she is imagining such things.

But if a child is able to detail out aspects of sexual molestation, such as touching and/or actions that are normally known after a certain age, then it is most likely true that she has been subject to molestation.

2) Trust her and comfort her: Provide her a safe haven where she can confide in you and give you the details of her traumatic experience.  Make sure that you remain calm. Avoid getting angry or panicking, rather show her in your actions and your speech that you believe her and that you are there for her.

3) Stand up for your daughter: Depending on the type of molestation, you may want to simply talk to the relative and warn him. If he shows any remorse, observe him sharply, but keep your child away from him. Distant yourself from the relative and minimize contacts with him.

Make sure that you tell your daughter about this, so not only she feels protected, but she will also have her courage and strength that you, her parent, stand by her side.

If you still suspect your relative, then seek advice from the knowledgeable and authoritative people in your area and take proper action.

In one incident in Pakistan, a Navy officer hired a Qur’an teacher for his kids. Two older sons and a younger daughter were supposed to study together. After a few days, the father noticed that Qur’an teacher would keep sending the boys out to either get water or to memorize their lessons in a separate room. It made him suspicious. He spied on the teacher and found him touching his little daughter inappropriately. He took the maulwi sahib out on the street and started beating him until the neighbors interfered. He made it well-known to everyone the evil of that maulwi.

Obviously this action cannot be taken in West, so it is important that parents keep their anger under control and take the actions that will be beneficial for the daughter. Becoming emotional and doing something destructive that might put you in trouble with the law may not only destroy your life, but it may even make your daughter feel guilty that her parent got in trouble because of her.

4) Report to authorities: Do not hesitate, if needed, to report to authorities. Even if you secure your own child, the molester may harm someone else\’s child.

The biggest hesitation that the parents feel in reaching out to authorities is the humiliation among the relatives and friends. Put your trust in Allah and know that izzah (honor) and zillah (dishonor) comes from Allah. Do not worry about what will happen to your daughter in future. Worry about what is happening to her at the moment and how you can protect her from the present harm.

5) It wasn’t her fault: Never be judgmental and never blame your daughter. Tell her as many times as you can that it was not her fault and that you are very proud of her for confining in you. Show her as much affection as you can, but find a balance because too much affection may remind her of the mishap.

6) Keep inquisitive relatives away: If the matter becomes open amongst the family/friends, make sure she doesn’t stay around those intrusive relatives who might say something hurtful to her. Be a shield and a wall for your child at the same time let her stand up for her own self too from time to time.

7) Be patient with her: Allow her some room and space to vent her anger and irritation. Continue to show her that you are there for her and you support her. And regardless of whatever happened to her, it has not decreased your love for her.

8.) Let her visit more unfortunate people: If you have some very unfortunate people in the community like someone with fatal disease with no one to look after them, or an elderly home where parents have been abandoned by their children, or an orphanage, take your daughter there and let her help out so that she will not be so engrossed in her own problem.

Encourage her, in a wise and polite manner, to look upon the less unfortunate people than her rather then those who may seem better off than her.

9) Professional help: If needed, take her to a psychiatrist. A trustworthy Muslim psychiatrist once told me that a Muslim should only go to a Muslim psychiatrist because non-Muslim psychiatrists can have a damaging effect on your child and their belief system. Example: Contact the Muslim Youth Helpline

10) Educate yourself: Read more about the facts, symptoms and signs of molestation. Talk to some professional on how you should help your daughter. At the same time, talk to a person of knowledge on how you should support your daughter, talking to such people always helps during our tests and trials.
Facts | Symptoms | Signs

11) Help her come closer to Allah azzawajal: Do not be forceful. In fact, try to achieve this goal through indirect ways. At times, children do not want us to preach to them and not all of us have the art of preaching either. So, if your daughter has good Muslim friends, allow them to visit more often, keep her in a positive environment of good people. Take her to the Masjid in a non-forceful way.

Buy her some good Islamic lectures on test & trials, or the story of Yousuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his patience. Encourage her to participate in the Masjid activities or local duroos. Get her busy in a positive and productive way.

12) Make du\’a: Only Allah can bestow the sakeenah and the peace you seek for your daughter. Remember, your du’a as a parent is accepted for your child. Invoke Allah for her healing, for her protection, and for her better future in this world and akhira. Make an effort to wake up for Qiyam-ul-lail and encourage your daughter to do so too.

D. Rape

Much of the healing and helping process is the same in case of rape as well, however, if the victim conceives from the rape, realize that there are fuqaha who allow abortion in case if it is tormenting for the victim to bear the pregnancy and the consequences associated with it. See: http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/13317/rape

Unlike the common misconception in the West, Islam does not penalizes a woman for being raped. Islamically, the punishment of a rapist is the same as an adulterer. See: http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/72338/rape

A victim is allowed, in fact obliged, to protect herself in whatever possible way, even if she has to take the life of the rapist to protect herself, she is allowed to do so. See: http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/4017/rape

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance." Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. ayesha

    March 9, 2009 at 9:19 AM

    Assalamualikum.
    Jazakallahukhairan…
    male quran teachers molestating young girls is quite common!!!….so please ,we must see to it that we appoint female teachers for girls(regardless of their age)..

  2. anonymous

    March 9, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    JazakAllah khayr, sister Umm Reem. I was checking back daily for the next part :)

    Also, I hope you mention in the next part how sisters/families in other countries (outside of the US) can deal with the situation as they usually do not have authorities that can deal with the person.

  3. Musafira

    March 9, 2009 at 1:58 PM

    Jazak Allah khair, Umm Reem – no more burying head in the sand like an ostrich!

  4. Farhan

    March 9, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    This is scary, but good to know

  5. Umm Ismael

    March 9, 2009 at 4:04 PM

    Asslam u alaikum wr wb
    May ALLAH Reward you for touching on a topic so avoided by our community. I am a mother of a 2 year old boy. I was wondering how one would begin educating boys in this regard. I can only implore my husband to be close to him but if that doesnt happen where do i go from there?
    Mothers need to recognize that raising a child is the most important “job” that one has been assignedby no other than ALLAH S.w.t. Taking time out for other activities while ignoring this as trivial or unworthy is a fallacy promoted by shaytaan. Beware!

  6. Umm Reem

    March 9, 2009 at 4:37 PM

    Umm Ismael, many mothers asked me this question. There are many husbands who like to remain in their “eastern” mindset and do not realize the importance of communication which is fine and I don’t see anything wrong with mothers communicating with their sons in the same way they would communicate with their daughters.
    So, i would encourage you to start building the relationship with your son, have an open communication with him. You are the mother and your “job” is to protect him, educate him and shield him as much as you can. and Allah knows best.

  7. anonymous

    March 10, 2009 at 10:22 AM

    Dress them properly even when they are very young. Do not clothe them with a small underwear under a dress. Use clothing that will give them maximum coverage. Do not put provocative dresses on little girls.

    My daughter is only four months old right now so of course she rolls around in a onesie all the time or small dress all the time. When should we start always putting pants on them and implementing this rule? Once they start walking?

  8. Olivia

    March 10, 2009 at 9:51 PM

    Anonymous, for myself i found myself having my daugther where less revealing clothes at like 1.5 years. I remember one day it just didnt look right for her to be wearing something revealing her thighs any more. After that it just progressively changed. She still wore shorts in her early twos but eventually that changed to something only below the knees when she was about 2.5 years I believe. My memory is kind of vague but the point is that I think most Muslim parents who are conscious of these issues and encourage modesty will know when it just doesnt look right any more.

  9. worriedmom

    March 16, 2009 at 12:24 AM

    Assalamu alaikum umReem i dont want my comment printed but could you please email me so i could get some urgent advice from you and Dr Haleh? I await your reply
    wassalam

  10. ummreem

    March 16, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    worriedmom…
    email at:
    privatequestions@muslimmatters.org

  11. Sister: No non-sense, Please!

    March 27, 2009 at 9:33 PM

    how come part IV-A has comments but I’m unable to see them? I am unable to read the entire post (part IV-A) either. I see an error message when I click on it. What’s up with that?!?

  12. ayesha

    March 28, 2009 at 2:46 AM

    same here …even i aint able to veiw the article!!

  13. Sister: No non-sense, Please!

    March 28, 2009 at 11:45 AM

    Aight, two ppl with the same problem here…any helpful souls know the answer?

    • Amad

      March 28, 2009 at 8:16 PM

      salam
      “sister:no nonsense”, we weren’t ignoring you. Actually I thought the link was a problem, but only when I opened the article in Internet Explorer, did I realize that the article wasn’t showing up. It was working fine in firefox… very strange.

      Anyway, it is working now…

      w/s

  14. ayesha

    March 29, 2009 at 4:20 AM

    jazakallahukhairan for the response ……..im able to access the article now ….

  15. Sister: No non-sense, Please!

    March 31, 2009 at 6:59 PM

    salam
    “sister:no nonsense”, we weren’t ignoring you.

    Wasalaam. I never said you (all) were. Thanks a lot for fixing it. I can access it now. I was just trying to instigate a speedy response. : )

  16. Sarah

    December 28, 2009 at 9:58 PM

    I am an American Jew (and a victim of molestation at the hands of a teacher who now calls herself a Christian, but God knows better…), but I found your information helpful and very enlightened. First of all, you list only those aftereffects that have been soundly scientifically proven to happen. Secondly, you aim to make sure victims are still close to God. I love Him dearly. If not for Him, I would have surely slit my wrists that year she was my teacher, or sometime afterwards during the tumult of puberty. Allah has certainly blessed you with wisdom, intelligence, and insight. And a heart. That is what’s most important. I send you love.

  17. um usama

    January 3, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    salam sisters
    i am in a situation and i dont know what to do :(
    my father used to molest me( but he didnt rape me)
    i am finding it hard naw ,that i have grown to be a woman and i have my own kids Alhamdolillah to act like nothing has happened:( i am finding it hard to be in a relationship with a man and i got divorced because of that.
    i dont know what does islam say on this ………………..not sure about the right choices :(
    should i stay away from him?
    should i still give him respect as a father?
    can i keep his grandchildren away from him?
    do i have the right to hate him?
    can i just wipe him out of my life?
    do i have to ask him for his permition if i want to get married again?
    please do help me …………………salam

  18. Mariam

    April 18, 2011 at 2:16 AM

    Asalaaum Alaikum-

    Alhamdulillah! This is an issue that lacks attention but that is soooo important. I would like to just expand on one thing: THIS DOES ALSO HAPPEN TO BOYS. Ya Allah protect us our children for this evil and soften the hearts of those who inflict this harm.

  19. Nazia

    February 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    As salaamu alaykum sis. Is it possible to get in contact with you via email? I am currently working on a project which as about supporting young muslim women who have been sexually abused and would appreciate some advice from you…JazakAllah khair

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