“The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals. And the best among them are those who are best to their wives.”
It’s a common occurrence – women come into a masjid or Islamic center claiming their husband is abusive. These women expect the staff, and resident Imam if there is one, to help them get the help and assistance they need.
Unfortunately, most staff members are not qualified to address issues of domestic abuse. This is usually due to the fact that they simply don’t understand the family dynamics of domestic violence and abuse in relationships, and how complicated those dynamics are.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month I’ll be starting a series of articles that will help shed some light on issues of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. I’ll also give Muslim communities they tools they need to address all types of abuse; from physical financial.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of a single year, this adds up to 10 million incidents of abuse.
Across our lifetimes, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of some form of physical violence by intimate partners.
I write and share my own stories and experience because in my own marriage, and subsequent divorce, I was never able to find the help I needed from the Muslim community. I was told all the standard tropes; “Have patience/sabr,” “Divorce is hated by Allah,” “Give him another chance,” etc.
I turned to my non-Muslim parent’s for help and ended up filing for divorce in the secular court, because I was denied a khula without jumping through hoops as well!
Domestic violence and domestic abuse are real issues facing our Muslim communities, and community members need to be more informed.
While abuse happens in ALL communities, we now know that immigrants, especially those who have fled dictatorial regimes and war, are especially at risk. This is because of their unfamiliarity with, and distrust of, local law enforcement systems. They are also at greater risk because they are usually living without large family support systems that they may have had “back home.” The Canadian Women’s Foundation notes that immigrant women “may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources.”
Converts to Islam are another demographic at greater risk. This is due to their unfamiliarity with Islamic Laws and usually a lack of a large family support system willing to support and assist them in an emergency. Both of these demographics are more likely to stay in marriages far past the point that any other person may consider leaving.
For these women, domestic abuse becomes a secret they can’t share and gets worse and worse behind closed doors.
The goal of this series
In this new series for Muslim Mommy USA, I’m looking forward to addressing the signs and symptoms of various types of abuse, and also offer tips for friends, family, caregivers, advocates and community members can use to help those in need of support. I hope you’ll follow along with this series so that you learn the tools needed to help yourself, or a friend or family member, work through all the challenges of living and leaving a domestic abuse situation.
If you, or someone you know is being abused, please start by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline in U.S. (1-800-799-7233). In Canada call 1-866-863-0511 for help and advice accessing local services, shelters, and other social programs.
About the series author
Janet Kozak is a domestic abuse survivor and victim advocate. She participated in a Strategic Planning Session for a planned Family Justice Center in Sacramento, CA in Nov., 2012. She founded a Facebook forum for Muslim Women Against Domestic Violence and Abuse in Dec. 2013. Kozak also spoke at the 2nd International Conference on Women’s Empowerment in Karachi, Pakistan in Dec., 2015, her topic was Financial Abuse: The Reason We Stay. Janet Kozak’s articles have been featured in numerous print and online publications including SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, Islamwich, About Islam, and many others. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter