Whether you are living in a non-Muslim country or in a Muslim country, Muslims need to know how to protect their children from sexual abuse. Sexual abuse (in general) is on the rampage. Of course the statistics of Western/European countries is growing at an alarming rate. One out of every three girls and one out of every six boys will be sexually abused by the age of eighteen.
Most people think that sexual abuse prevention means that you will have to talk about sexual abuse with your children. But this is not the case. The focus is on teaching the child to feel confident that he or she can trust his/her instinct which constitutes the ability to differentiate between a comfortable or uncomfortable touch. In addition, it teaches children to stand up for themselves to elders and say ‘no’ if they have transgressed the boundaries of Islam, and to instruct them to tell a trusted family member what has happened so they do not internalize the abuse.
Furthermore, children need to distinguish between what is an appropriate secret and inappropriate secret. This is essential in order to help the child know the difference between a good secret and a bad secret. There is nothing spoken about sexual abuse or about specific genital body parts. No matter where you live, you should teach your children this subject. It is a responsibility that we have as Muslim parents to hit each subject matter head on. We never know when it is going to happen, and just saying it won’t happen to my child, is not enough.
Raising our children in a world where things are becoming more and more perverted as shown on the television, Internet websites, e-mail etc., it is imperative that our children know what is going on out there. Sticking our heads into the sand like an ostrich is not the answer. Nothing just blows away with the wind. We need to tackle each societal sickness that is out there. In addition we have a responsibility to at least teach our children to trust their natural instinct and know that Allaah has given them rights to their bodies.
Children who have been warned about sexual abuse (without saying it like that) have a plan of action to use in case this occurs. These children who have the information and plan will be able to, Allaah willing, avoid this abuse and/or at least tell us what has happened.
As parents, we need to teach our children basic rules like how to use electricity, how to cross the street, etc. It is not difficult to do the same with sexual abuse prevention. Of course, one of the reasons we have to teach our children about this area is because we have to counterattack the theme that we have taught them about respecting elders and doing what they asked without question. In Islam, we have worked very hard on this issue, but children need to know that there are times where they are allowed to say ‘no’. Islam has already set the guideline for this area regarding our modesty and our private section.
Most offenders do not abuse children when people are around. First (like any predator) they stalk their prey. Trying to bond with them, see if they could keep a secret, will they be cooperative, etc.
Most children do not need to be taught about what is uncomfortable, but after years of parents forcing our children (when they are not comfortable) to be kissed, hugged, grabbed, tickled and taken by people they do not like or who they do not know starts repressing that natural instinct. What we have taught them is, you need to share your body with everyone because you have to respect your elders. If you don’t, you will be a disrespectful bad boy/girl. I know this is easier said than done because we do need to teach our children respect, etc. But at the same time we do not want them to desensitize their Allaah-given rights.
I’m sure each one of us can look back throughout our lives and remember someone who gave us the “creeps”. We are not sure why, but something inside us was screaming “stay away, something is wrong”. Yet as adults we can give a simple handshake and move away from the person. But since children have been taught that all elders deserve respect, this is confusing and scary to an obedient child. They have been taught to do as your elder tells you otherwise you are a naughty child. So what is a child suppose to do if a sexual abusive uncle takes his niece on a walk and starts touching her in ways that are inappropriate.
Most children will show the adult she is uncomfortable, and if she shows any resistance he will threaten her, bribe her, leaving her confused and unsure of herself. But as Muslims, it is clear where our private section begins and ends. No other religion spells it out so clearly in the entire world. Our children’s protection comes from the commandments of Allaah. And he or she has the right to be protected and empowered by these rules!
Our job is to validate our children’s natural feelings of being uncomfortable and their warning signs that something is wrong. They need to be taught that these feelings are real and that they have the right to communicate those feelings when they have them. They need to be taught how to communicate by body language and words that they have power in this situation and can act assertively.
There are three books that deal with this issue:
1.Omar talks about Secrets
2. Omar’s talks about: “It’s my body” (dealing with modesty)
3. Omar talks about: Loving touches.
These books teach children that they as children have rights and that certain kinds of touching are wrong and they have the right to resist. All the books are done in an Islamic context with lots of drawings in order to reach the natural feelings that a child has in this area. This validation is very important.
The Prophet Muhammad
said: “Every religion has a (distinct) morality, for Islam it is hayaa’ (modesty).”
[Ibn Maajah] Another famous Prophetic narration says: “There are more than 70 branches of Imaan (Faith). The foremost is the declaration that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and the least of it is removing harmful things from the path. And modesty is a branch of Imaan.”
What every Muslim parent needs to know about sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is a scary word. When most people hear the phrase, they immediately cut off emotionally and stop listening. Why? People are afraid because they don’t know much about the topic and do not want to feel powerless. We hope and pray that this will never happen to our children, but Allaah has given us a brain and we are supposed to use it. Like the well-stated Prophetic narrationnarrated by Ibn Hibbaan
that a man asked the Prophet
whether he should fetter his camel or would dependence on Allaah suffice in retaining the beast. The Prophet
answered: “Fetter it and depend (on Allaah).”
This direct command given by the Prophet
leaves no doubt as to the necessity of working the cause while adopting dependence on Allaah.
It is our responsibility to educate ourselves on this topic so that we can check Qadar (Islamic view of Divine preordainment) with Qadar. Take a look at the following statement regarding Qadar and our responsibility to act.
It had been narrated that ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab
went back with the people and did not enter Syria when the plague spread there. Abu ‘Ubaydah Ibn Al-Jarraah
said to ‘Umar: “O Ameerul- Mu’mineen (the Commander of the Believers), are you running away from the Decree of Allaah?” ‘Umar
said: “If only someone other than you had said this, O Abu ‘Ubaydah! Yes, we are running away from the Decree of Allaah towards the Decree of Allaah. Do you not see that if you had a camel and you came to a valley where there were two patches of land, one green and fertile, and the other dry and barren, if you let it graze in the green land, you do so by the decree of Allaah, and if you let it graze in the dry land, you do so by the decree of Allaah” [Al-Bukhaari]
Closing our eyes and hiding away from the topic is really like giving up. Obviously, Allaah has granted us with the capacity to use our brain, so we must act. Child sexual abuse is when the child is used at an object for some kind of sexual satisfaction by an adult or older child (by five years old). The abuser uses manipulation, threats, exploitation and even physical force.
Let’s look at the different ways in which the predator takes advantage of his victims.
1. Manipulation: “I will take you to the zoo if you take off your clothes and play with me”
2. Exploitation: “I love you very much and I want to show you how much I love you.”
3. Blackmail: “I will tell your father that you were naughty if you don’t let me play this game with you, of course they are going to believe me because you are always telling lies.”
The sexual abuser is seriously sick and will continue abusing children sexually until he is caught. His senses are heightened because he is following his perverted desires without caring about who he hurts to satisfy himself sexually. He is swimming in a sea of sin and oppression where an evil thing is the most attractive way of fulfilling his insecure desires. His perverted desires have taken him to levels that are hard to ever imagine. And the children that he touches are scared forever unless they let their parents or trust family members know what is happening.
The child must be empowered; this is his right to stand up for his Allaah-given rights not to be abused. They have a right to be educated.
Trust and honor are very sacred in Islam. Because these are powerful tools, this is one of the main tools of the offender. They will start to develop friendship with the child trying to be someone special in the child’s life. He is skating on thin ice, but his perverted satisfaction is like a hungry lion looking for food, never satisfied completely until he has manipulated this trust in order to fulfill his or her sexual gratification.
It is important not to stereotype these offenders. They are from every kind of background. They encompass all races and socio-economic groups. Though the rate of sexual abuse is lower in Muslim countries, it does not mean that it doesn’t happen. So whether you live in a non-Muslim country or a Muslim country you need to know this information.
said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The leader is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock; a woman is the shepherd in the house of her husband and is responsible for her flock…”
[Al-Bukhaari, Muslim and others]
It is imperative that parents never ever believe the lies that children secretly want to be abused. This is one of the most violating acts that a child could ever feel in his or her life. Generally speaking, most sexual abusers are older and understand what they are doing. It is imperative that you never ever blame a child for the offense. A parent’s reaction can have everlasting effects on the child either way. They could either lower the rope to help the child out of the deep dark hole, or they could be the one who lets him rot forever in shame and guilt that affects the child possibly for the rest of his or her life.
A Muslim poet once wrote,
“Our children are our hearts, walking among us on the face of the earth. If even a little breeze touches them, we cannot sleep for worrying about them.”
In addition, children do not lie about being sexually abused. Children do not make up stories that are scary and ugly. It is far from anything they could imagine.
Generally speaking, the offender is very secretive about these abuses. In order to protect the child he needs to coherce through the above methods so there will not be any evidence of a fight. If there were bruises or marks, this would incriminate the abuser.
It is impetrative that children are empowered by knowing that their body is theirs, staying in tune with what kind of touch is ok, having the right to stand up to the offender, and letting him or her know there are no secrets and he or she is going to tell. It is our responsibility to let our children know that they can tell us about what has happened to them.
What should a parent do if he or she suspects abuse?
If you are worried that your child has been sexually abused, it is important to put your trust in Allaah and stay calm. Children are very intuitive and can easily sense there is something “up”. Allaah Says (what means): “…Indeed, Allaah is with the patient.” [Quran 2: 153]
It is imperative that you stay completely casual when you ask your child the following question:
“I’m wondering if someone has been touching you in a way you don’t like or don’t understand.” (this question was taken from ‘Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse’).
Did anyone ask you to keep a secret?
Stay away from questions like: “Did anyone touch you in a place that you didn’t like?” (A common question).
Generally speaking, a child who has never been abused may just complain about somebody tickling him or her. But for the child who has been sexually abused, more than likely they will either act uncomfortable about the questions or avoid it completely. It is important to understand that they are still in the cycle of violence. They may have been possibly threatened or made promises that they “feel” they should keep. The abuser has probably spent hours and hours gaining the child’s trust and being their “personal friend”. This makes it very difficult for the child to say anything about the abuser.
It is important that you remain both relaxed and open. Try to pray Salaat –ul-Istikhaarah (the prayer of seeking Allaah’s Guidance) for help before you start opening the communication. Allaah Says (what means): “And seek help through patience and prayer…” [Quran 2: 45]
It is natural for the parent to feel rage, anger, pain etc. But it is essential that you remain calm. Mujaahid
said: “Beautiful patience is patience without any panic.”
‘Amr Ibn Qays
said: “Beautiful patience means to be content with adversity and to surrender to the will of Allaah.”
The child will probably think that you are angry with him or her and not with the abuser. They may not even know that by talking to you they had incriminated their “friend”. Your reaction is very important to keep the lines of communication open. It is important to be reassuring and to let the child know that he had done nothing wrong.
Once opening the “can of worms”, the child might start feeling scared and insecure. He or she may need lots of hugs and reassuring words. From the moment that the child opens up, everything after that will affect him or her for the rest of the life. Your being stable and a “rock” for him or her is impetrative.
Depending on what country you live in, you need to then follow procedure in order to insure proper legal steps are taken. You can’t just leave the situation thinking “ok, I won’t let him or her with again.” This is not enough. Reread Characteristics of the Sexual Abuser and see how many children they abuse in their life. Is this fair to allow a criminal to go free, knowing very well that he will strike again. I know it is very hard to do this, especially if it is a family member. But these people are very sick. Think about Prophet Loote
dealt with the homosexual issue. Left undone, the sickness spread throughout the entire city. The same happens with innocent children, many may have multitude of sexual issues when they grow up. The effect of even just one incident can permanently damage them for the rest of their lives. It is important to note that young boys who are sexually abused can either withdraw into theirselves or actually become sexual abusers themselves as they grow up.
They are so mixed up and feeling shame and powerlessness that they may end of repeating the same cycle. Like the man who is yelled at by his boss, then comes home and yells at his wife, then the wife yells at the kids and the kids kick and yell at the neighbor kids or guard dog. It is a vicious cycle that will not go away.
One thing in Islamic communities is that they worry more about protecting their girls than their boys. This is a big mistake! We need to wake up and care about both our girls and boys the same. Just because they are boys doesn’t mean that they cannot be sexually abused.
Please note that your child may feel very guilty for “causing” all the problems in the family. It is of course worse if the offender is one of the family members. Your child may have to repeat over and over to different authorities what happened. You do not want the child to close down. It is important that you offer your unconditional love and support for the child. Help the child understand that the move he or she made, Allaah willing, will protect him or her and other children from the offender. Read to children stories of those who stood up to injustice no matter how hard it was. Let them know that it is their right as Muslim children that they are protected and cared for.
It is important not to let too many people know about what had happened. Your child’s privacy is very important. Also take care of yourself and get the support you need. Remember! Allaah wrote everything that was to happen, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for this. We must believe that Allaah has Wisdom behind every incident. Allaah Knows and Sees everything. With His infinite Wisdom call on Allaah by His most beautiful Names and Attributes.
Allaah Says (what means): “…But give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allaah, and indeed to Him we will return. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” [Quran 2: 155-7]
by Lynn Jefferies