Dr. Aneesah Nadir –
We should feel safe in our homes and with our families. According to the Qur’an, marriage is an institution that should engender mercy, love and tranquility. The Prophet said, “I recommend that you treat women with goodness. The best of you are those who treat their wives the best.” Sadly too many homes are places in which abuse occurs.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and that 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
Despite the fact that women are generally the focus of discussions of abuse, abuse is not age, gender or race specific. Men are also victims of domestic violence. Children and elders also experience abuse by those entrusted to care for them. According to the Centers for Disease Control, domestic violence affects more than 32 million Americans. According to a 2007 Peaceful Families Project survey, almost half of the nearly 200 Muslims surveyed experienced some type of domestic violence.
I recently received a call from a woman concerned about her abused Muslim sister, asking, “How can I help her? What should I do?”
I told her: Be a friend who keeps her confident. Don’t judge. Let her know that what she is experiencing is about the abuser seeking power and control and that with the help of Allah and support she will get through this. Tell her she has the right to safety in her home.
Leaving is easier said than done when you value marriage and want children to have both parents and when you have no other means of support. She may be threatened with violence if she tries leave.
Help her devise a safety plan. She will need a safe house or domestic violence shelter that will also accept her children and a place to leave documents including birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports and some money as well as a bag of clothing in case she has to leave in a hurry.
Help her locate counseling and community services. Arizona South Asians For Safe Families is a local nonprofit that addresses domestic violence and understands the challenges Muslim women experience. American Muslim Women’s Association helps women become self-sufficient and provides social support. Cultural Cup Food Bank provides food boxes. ICNA, the Islamic Circle of North America, has a women’s shelter.
An attorney will help her learn her legal rights regarding her home, income, custody of children, divorce and immigration. She can receive guidance to obtain her will, powers of attorney and a restraining order. The Violence Against Women Act is an important law key in addressing domestic violence.
Most women leave with little or no income so they will need financial assistance for shelter, food, healthcare and legal services. Community Legal Services is a nonprofit legal resource that helps. Legal plans with LegalShield are often the most affordable way to obtain quality legal services.
As a community we must begin to implement strategies to raise awareness, prevent domestic violence before it happens as well as address it when occurs.