This article was first published on www.mentalhealth4muslims.com on March 22, 2011
By Maryam Kazi
“If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night.” – Mark Green
The amount of abuse that happens in Muslim households today has increased dramatically. It is an unfortunate reality that has been hidden and ignored for far too long in our community. There is no excuse for this or any type of abuse in Islam, yet we continue to see women coming into counseling who are petrified to go back to their homes. If there are children, they almost always know about the abuse and have often witnessed it. Not only has it destroyed Muslim families but it has also weakened the Muslim community. In 2000, the North American Council for Muslim Women reported that approximately 10 % of Muslim women were emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by their husbands. Islam came to liberate the woman, not confine her to one space and take away her rights and dignity. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “I recommend that you treat women with goodness. The best of you are those who treat their wives the best.”
The Peaceful Families Project put together some statistics of domestic violence within Muslim communities. The following is the result of their research.
- In a study of 190 Muslims seeking mental health counseling in Northern Virginia, 41% experienced domestic violence in the form of verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Victims were 71% adult females, 12% adult males, and 16% children. 60% of all clients experienced verbal or psychological abuse in their lifetime, 50% physical abuse, 14% sexual abuse, and 3% reported having a relative killed. (Abugideiri 2007)
- A study of 57 closed-case files from an American Muslim women’s shelter revealed that 37% had experienced multiple types of abuse, 23% experienced physical abuse, and 12% experienced emotional abuse. (Abdullah 2007)
- A study of 1324 pregnant Pakistani women found that 51% had experienced verbal, physical or sexual abuse in the six months prior to and/or during their pregnancies. (Karmaliani et al. 2008)
- A study of 146 Sudanese women at an outpatient clinic found that 45.8% had been victims of domestic violence. (Ahmed 2007)
- A study of 1418 Lebanese women attending primary health centers found that 35% experienced domestic violence, including verbal abuse (88%) and physical violence (66%). (Usta et al 2007)
- A study of 1800 pregnant Iranian women found that 60.6% of the women experienced multiple forms of domestic violence, including psychological (60.5%), physical (14.6%), and sexual (23.5%) violence. (Jahanfar & Malekzadegan 2007)
- A study of 631 Egyptian women found that 22% experienced intimate partner violence. (Vizcarra et al. 2004)
- A study of 2677 Bengali women aged 13-40 revealed that three out of four (75.6%) experienced violence from their husbands. (Silverman et al. 2007)
- In a study of 121 Afghan women and men, over 30% felt increasingly concerned about family violence. (Abirafeh 2007)
- In a study of 506 Turkish women attending health centers, 58% experienced domestic violence (primarily psychological and physical) frequently and continuously (Alper et al. 2005)
The term abuse is commonly understood as something physical. However, there are many different types of abuse such as neglect of a child or an elder, which is the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child or older adult. The caretaker may not be providing adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision. Sexual abuse is also a form of abuse and it is the exploitation of a human for another person’s sexual control and gratification. Emotional and verbal abuse is the chronic pattern of behavior where the person is belittled, denied love, marginalized, subjected to extreme and inappropriate punishments or threatened verbally. Economic abuse is the control of financial resources by taking the victim’s money, putting all resources in the controlling partner’s name or forbidding them to handle finances. Below is the power and control wheel used to describe different types of domestic violence:
In terms of domestic violence, we need to remember that the survivor is an expert on his or her own experience of abuse. It is true; many victims will stay in the relationship and believe that it may not be the best thing for them to leave. There are different types of abuse: intimate partner abuse, domestic violence and dating violence. In the United States, male batterers are 85-95% while female batterers are 5-15%. Only 10% have a possible mutual aggression. A victim of domestic violence may take responsibility far more for almost everything and it is often completely unwarranted. Abusers are rarely accountable.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has clearly disapproved of men hitting their wives, and that he never in his entire life hit any woman or child. In the Prophet’s last sermon, he exhorted men to “be kind to women-you have rights over your wives, and they have rights over you.” He also said, “Treat your women well, and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers,” and at a different time, he said, “The strong man is not the one who can use the force of physical strength, but the one who controls his anger” (Bukhari).
Anna Salter’s research concluded that approximately 95-98% of sex offenders are male and 80% of them offend in their own family. The average age of the first sex offense is 14. Furthermore, 96% identify as heterosexual and molest boys and 90% are married, cohabitating or dating adult females at the time of child molestation.
Abel and Harlow’s research concluded that 90% of sex offenders are married and are having consensual adult sex, actively religious, employed and educated with at least a high school degree.
Some myths are that sex offenders have a mental illness (only 2-5% have any clinical diagnosis) or are victims of sexual assault or misuse alcohol and drugs. Offenders usually have rigid gender roles, have a strong sense of entitlement, lack of accountability and strong possessiveness. Female offenders usually have a large psychiatric history and over 75% begin as “co-perpetrators” with a male intimate partner who is abusive at the time of child molestation. Sex offenders tend to exploit vulnerability. Tactics include emotional abuse, economic abuse, isolation, using their children to blackmail them, threats and intimidation.
Domestic Violence Survivors – Why Don’t They Leave?
Generally there is a fear of being alone. Most of the time, they love the abuser or believe that the abuser needs them. Usually, they have no place to go, don’t want to raise their children alone, feel shame, vulnerability, stay for monetary means, have hope for change or have cultural, religious or family pressure to stay in the relationship.
What is unfortunate about these statistics is the lack of response from friends and family. This problem has been and continues to exist in the Muslim community. Azizah al-Hibri, a professor of law at the University of Richmond and author of An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence, wrote “what was surprising about the calls, however, was that generally the women received no support from their female friends or their local religious leaders.”
What Can You Do to Help?
- Show compassion and use supportive statements
- Listen without judgment and allow the survivor to tell his or her story – let them vent.
- Assess for safety and find support for them with a professional counselor
- Allow the survivor to make decisions as much as possible
- Most importantly: believe them and validate their feelings
Check out our previous post on domestic violence at: Domestic Violence: Are You a Victim?
For more information on domestic violence within the Muslim community:
- Statistics: www.peacefulfamilies.org
- Resources: www.issausa.org
- Lawyers: www.karamah.org
- Helpline: 1888 ASK-NISA
- Counseling: www.starfamilycenter.org
- Shelter: www.niswainc.org/
- Health Clinic: www.ummaclinic.org
- Resource Center: www.accesscal.org
2. “Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders: Who They Are, How They Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children” by Anna C. Salter
3. Abugideiri, Salma Elkadi. (2007). Domestic violence among Muslims seeking mental health counseling. In Change from within: Diverse perspectives on domestic violence in Muslim communities, eds. Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, 91-115. Great Falls, VA: Peaceful Families Project.
4. Ahmed, Awad Mohamed. (2007). Domestic violence in the Sudan: Opening Pandora’s box. In Change from within: Diverse perspectives on domestic violence in Muslim communities, eds. Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, 133-53. Great Falls, VA : Peaceful Families Project.
5. Abirafeh, Lina. (2007). Freedom is only won from the inside: Domestic violence in post-conflict Afghanistan. In Change from within: Diverse perspectives on domestic violence in Muslim communities, eds. Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, 117-31. Great Falls, VA: Peaceful Families Project.
6. Alper, Z., N. Ergin, K. Selimoglu and N. Bilgel. (2005). Domestic violence: a study among a group of Turkish women. European Journal of General Practice, 11(2): 48-54.
7. Silverman J, Gupta J, Decker M, Kapur N, Raj A. (2007). Intimate partner violence and unwanted pregnancy, miscarriage, induced abortion, and stillbirth among a national sample of Bangladeshi women. BJOG, 114:1246-52.
Link to the article: http://mentalhealth4muslims.com/2011/03/22/the-truth-about-domestic-violence/
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