Protecting our children from sexual abuse – I

Protecting our children from sexual abuse – I
  • Publish date:14/06/2009
  • Section:Parents
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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 Allah 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, Allah 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 Allah-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 Allah. 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  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) 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 Iman (Faith). The foremost is the declaration that there is none  worthy of worship except Allah and the least of it is removing harmful things from the path. And modesty is a branch of Iman." [Muslim]
 

The next part will talk more in-depth about sexual abuse, prevention, empowerment etc.

By: Lynn Jefferies

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