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6 tips for friends for dealing with sexual abuse in the West
by Abdul Malik Mujahid
Like with other social ills such as domestic violence, sexual abuse is another arena where parents and friends can help support a victim and assist them in getting help.
Here are a list of tips for people who know someone who is or has been a victim of sexual abuse (which happens over a prolonged period of time) as well as sexual assault (which may involve one instance, such as a rape).
1. Listen to the victim
Sexual abuse is very very difficult to talk about, especially in Muslim cultures where talking about sex is often a taboo or a frowned upon. If someone is confiding in you about abuse of this nature, listen to them carefully.
When it comes to children, you have to be even more attentive. In their case, you should
lead or suggest information to your child, so they can disclose more easily. This is especially hard for them because children have no prior sexual knowledge and if they discuss such issues, it's a sign something may be going on.
2. Believe them
Do not deny the abuse or the incident of sexual harassment is happening or happened. Do not judge them. Show them that you support them no matter what they decide to do about this abuse. Your support is very important because in cases of sexual abuse the perpetrator is likely to deny or blame the victim. You have to stand by them and show your support by believing them.
If you are dealing with a child who is being sexually abused, comfort him or her, and assure him/her that nothing is wrong with him/her.
3. Maintain their confidentiality
This is extremely important, especially in matters pertaining to sexual abuse and harassment, since there is still a pervasive "blame the victim" mentality towards this kind of oppression. As well, if you do not maintain your friend's confidentiality, you may close the door to them trusting anyone ever again with their pain. In the long term, this means they may never trust anyone with this secret and nothing will be done about it.
4. Talk to them about getting out of the situation
If your friend is being sexually abused on a regular basis, you need to help them get out of that situation. If they are older, you need to persuade them to do this by developing protection plans (see tips for domestic violence victims in the west) and helping them find a safe place to stay. Discuss these issues.
If however, there is a child being sexually abused in the home (in this case, it is highly likely this involves incest), there must be no persuasion. The child needs to be taken out of the home immediately. Contact a trustworthy Imam or Muslim, as well as a social worker about this. They can get the information and resources necessary to get the child out of that house and Insha Allah (God willing) to safety.
5. Encourage them to seek professional help
The ideal would be to consult a Muslim professional like a psychiatrist or a counselor. You can contact the Islamic Social Services Association of the United States and Canada, for instance, to see where the nearest professional to you is located.
However, if that is not available, you can recommend professional help of this nature in mainstream social services, but do seek the help of a trustworthy Muslim authority, like an Imam, for example, who can give them that necessary Islamic support as well.
6. Keep in contact with them
Even if your friend does not take your advice, keep in contact with him/her and keep supporting them. They may not be ready to take a step yet, but they may be in the future Insha Allah (if God wills). You need to keep encouraging them and supporting them to do this.
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