A Moment to Rant on Support…

S Hasan

After a relatively happy Monday home from work, my mother sweet-talked me into watching a prerecorded episode of a ‘really great drama; you’ll love it, just watch’.
<SPOILER ALERT> It was about a lady and a gentleman who were best friends and fell in love. Then they got married. Yes, I sat through 3 episodes, but after the fourth I was hooked. So the gentleman is a passionate talk-show host, dedicated to exposing land mafias and the rampant corruption of his homeland, making ardent speeches in hopes of impacting positive social change, while the lady just stays home, makes tea for her parents, giggles, looks pretty and voices her opinions only when triggered- the perfect description of a good desi daughter. Anywho, so the two finally get married after several futile attempts of convincing her father, and so fourth episode rolls around and BAM! their wedding night they were ready to get it on, but gentleman’s crime-reporter-coworker-friend gets murdered, so they rush to the hospital only to be stopped by land mafia hooligans who kidnap them, beat them up, threaten the gentleman and rape his bride in front of him. …it was too much for me to handle. Now I can’t sleep. And so I thought HELLO, it is still April- not only the loveliest month in the year but also Sexual Assault Awareness Month so why not blog about it?

As I watched 2 more episodes (I just…I couldn’t stop, as upset as I was that they hadn’t decided to seek counseling of any sort), I learned that Lady Giggles had more to her than just her pretty demeanor; honestly, made me respect her more. She started talking. Breaking the Silence- you know, something we should ALL be doing. Because remember, there is no shame, no guilt in being a survivor of sexual violence. And if you aren’t a survivor, being an advocate for a family member, a friend, and yes even an acquaintance who has survived sexual violence, sexual assault, rape, incest, sexual abuse. It’s what survivors need most in order to cope with Rape Trauma Syndrome– support.

Here are some brief tips on how to be positive source of support:

  • Let the survivor know you believe him/her without doubt
  • Be non judgmental and sincere
  • Acknowledge their confused feelings, don’t tell them how they should/shouldn’t feel
  • Listen actively without giving advice or talking about yourself
  • Don’t make victim-blaming statements (here’s a moving collection of those!)
  • Encourage them to seek help or call a Domestic Violence hotline anonymously to see what resources are available for them
  • Don’t ever place conditions on the support you are providing
  • Allow them to make their own decisions, and respect those decisions even if you do not agree with them
  • Call the police if you witness physical violence
  • LASTLY: make sure to take care of yourself! Get support if you need it

I’d like to wrap this rant up on an action-inspiring note, so click here and feel inspired.

Food for Thought

This article by Wajahat Ali is worth a read. In just a few paragraphs, he humorously and eloquently demonstrates why sex education for our Muslim youth is more crucial than ever.

As he explains how often the "sex talk" is limited to a simple "don’t do it", with the "it" not even being defined, he highlights why this is not only confusing for our young people, who develop and undergo the same adolescent changes as the rest of their peers, but it also creates a challenge for them to understand, find, and maintain healthy relationships. Using a driving metaphor, he explains "Muslim youth are expected to go from 0 to 60 mph with a spouse, 2.3 kids, and a suburban home without being taught how to start the engine and how to maintain the vehicle on its journey."

Wajahat Ali hit the nail on the head. The sheer amount of fear of intimacy, clash of expectations between spouses and sexual tension that is all too familiar to many Muslim newlyweds is contributing to years, if not a lifetime of marital discord and unhealthy relationships in our community. Moreover, the lack of culturally-appropriate sex education for our youth is leading to much confusion, risky sexual experimentation, and unhealthy attitudes toward sex.

Our work is now more crucial than ever. Raising awareness about the need for sex education in the Muslim community, and working together to develop culturally-appropriate curriculum is not only necessary, but extremely overdue. As the author ends the article, "There is hope that the birds and bees talk of today will evolve from "Don’t do it!" to "Do it!" – in a manner that is respectful, comfortable and natural to the sensibilities of Muslim individuals and communities." Totally totally agree. Teaching our kids about sex is not necessarily going to result in increased promiscuity. Rather, if we teach them about sex, the wisdom behind the boundaries Islam has placed, and teach them to have healthy attitudes and expectations of sex, perhaps our youth will have the tools to behave in a manner that is more in line with our values.

Nadiah Mohajir

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