Abuse in relationships, how much do we really know? What is our understanding of it? For a long time, I used to think that women or men who are subject to abuse in relationships are at fault, as they are the ones staying in a relationship where they are being abused. How naive and ignorant I feel now. Those who experience rape or assault aren't at fault are they? They are victims and no one would blame them would they?
In the same way someone being abused in a relationship is not at fault. I think this is a common misconception in society as my friend was explaining to me how she used to think this too. In society I feel there are so many misconceptions and ignorance around many topics such abuse in relationships.
It's hard to imagine what it's like if you have never been through abuse yourself, so therefore I can understand (I use these very loosely) why people might think this, but it is important to understand the mindset and thought process of someone being abused before making any assumptions.
Abuse in relationships is something that is not unknown in Islam. In fact I might say the factors such as religion, culture and society all play a part in abuse. The reason why I say this is because often stereotypes which are socialised from a young age, unknowingly can play a part in the way others interact with eachother. For example in Indian, Bengali etc. culture the man is seen as the provider and is treated like a king, he is served on hand and foot whereas the woman is the housewife attending to his needs and carrying out household duties. From a young age (even me) we are raised as girls to clean and cook, whereas boys are free to go out late and do what they like, girls are told to help and attend to the men's needs. This is reinforced by Religion, however I am not blaming religion for abuse, what I am saying is these roles in religion are misunderstood.
The reason why I say this is because, although religion does say men are breadwinners and women can stay at home. Women are also able to help out at home if they wish, what is misunderstood is that it is a choice and not an ultimate obligation. This reinforces negative stereotypes which can lead to distorted views of male and female interaction and our understanding of male and female responsibilities. Religion and culture can also affect our understand of the way we should behave such as a man being aggressive equating to masculinity and a women being meek and shy as innocence and femininity.
A woman being shy and meek is valued in religion as virtuous and pious however this does not mean a woman who is loud and confident is immodest and shameful. These things should be understand clearly as well as the fact that women who are shy should not be encouraged to be shy and quiet in the face of abuse. In religion as these qualities are valued often women may feel that they are practising patience by putting up with abuse but this is not the case as being patient does not mean you need to put up with everything, you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness not abuse! And I know of people who believe that it is 'patience' to put up with abuse( although they've never experienced abuse) but I would not say that is true in my opinion. Let's discuss what is patience? Patience is being understanding and trusting in God when things look bleak. So let's apply that to abuse, when someone is being hurt by another human being are they to trust in God that one day they will stop? Are they to put up with in the hopes that one day they will change? Wouldn't you say that, that is placing the person in a lower position and placing that person as the centre of their lives? Shouldn't their life be about them?? Shouldn't they have confidence and respect for themselves?
Men are not better than women and women are not better than men. We are told this in religion but then, why do men or even in some cases women distort this for their own desires? We must not conclude that this is a religious view and be clear to separate people using religion to their advantage and what religion is really saying.
I spoke to someone who has experienced abuse in a relationship in the past. I asked them a few questions please read below.
What does an abusive relationship mean to you? I think that an abusive relationship is to do with fear. The inability to communicate for fear of the person loving you less or even hurting you. There is a general feeling of fear of this person, they make you feel scared and intimidated, there is a lack of respect from the abuser to the victim of their feelings and thoughts. In my opinion the abuser is more concerned with power and control in the relationship rather than loving you.
What is your understanding of Islams view of Abuse?
I think it is largely misunderstood. Although the Quran and Sunnah encourage patience, the actuality of how it is understood amongst the Muslim community is flawed. As well as the fact that Islam discourages divorce, and encourage you to work on your marriage this is misunderstood to mean put up with anything. What I think we forget is that Islam does not say we should treat ourselves badly. It is important to value yourself and have confidence in yourself.
The mentality instilled in men and the Islamic principles are changed to fit men's desires. I think some scholars are also to blame in this as they can often encourage women to stay in abusive relationships and say it is patience, what I think we should remember is that although we should be patient and try to make a marriage work we should not allow someone to treat us badly, that is not patience that is being treated like a doormat. Abuse in marriage is not okay and won't ever be.
What are the forms of abuse in your eyes?Mental- where a person can change your mindset and your self perception. Emotional- where someone manipulates your emotions and can make you feel so happy but so depressed so easily. Physical- where should physically abuses you, this includes rape. *there is controversy in the Muslim community about rape in marriage but I believe rape does exist in marriage and it is not okay to force someone in sexual intimacy. I am aware there are hadiths about being cursed if you do not engage in sexual activity with your husband when he wishes, however this does not mean he can force you, if you feel uncomfortable he should be understanding and therefore be okay with it.
What do you think is the cause of abuse in relationships?
I think it is to do with how we have been socialised. Men (or women)haven't been taught to communicate successfully especially in Asian culture, I think a misunderstanding of religion and the stereotypes reinforced by culture play a part in abuse. I also think it is to do with the abusers childhood and insecurities they have, which makes them want to have power and control over another person to help them feel better or fill those insecurities.
Do you think certain women are more likely to experience abuse?
Not certain women, any woman can fall into an abusive relationship. There is no specific personality, I am a confident and strong woman yet I have experienced abuse and at the time I found it difficult to leave. But I do think that certain factors can make women to stay in abusive relationships, such as cultural stereotypes. Thinking women should be a certain way and believing it is okay to be abused as it is your fault. A weak bond with God, I think if you don't have a lot of reliance on God it is hard to have the strength to leave a relationship especially if you have children, leaving stability and comfort when you may not have a career or home, or even the thought of so much change can scare you and if you don't have faith that God is with you and will help you, it may mean you don't leave. (In some cases women or men may think they are wrong to leave anyway, and God wouldn't help them). Another thing I think can make someone stay in abusive relationship is, if someone is insecure in themselves, when someone is insecure and they are receiving 'love' from the abuser even if it's once, the person may think that there is hope and they will latch on to that hope even if they are being abused. Seeing the good in someone I suppose.
I have kept the person anonymous as they have asked me to do so. I am aware this is a very sensitive topic and I know everyone has different views on it, but I do not think abuse is acceptable ever. And no one should put up with it. I don't know if I have done a good enough job on the concerns about abuse in marriage regarding Islam, but I hope I have. If anyone is being abused it is important to remember that you deserve kindness and respect. You do not deserve abuse and you are not at fault. You are a good person, and you should feel confident in yourself, because you are beautiful. There some helplines for domestic abuse which I have posted below:
0808 2000 247 - national domestic violence helpline
This is for UK but I am sure there are sites and helplines for whichever country you are living in. If you do not want it to appear in your history there is private browsing available. For the national helpline I have posted, the number does not show up on phone bills for most networks but you may have to check with your provider as far as I know calls made on BT, o2, Virgin and 3 will not show up.