As-Salaamu `Alaikum dear sister,
Thank you for your question. My sincere sympathies for the pain and hardship you have experienced and continue to endure. Have you talked to your mother alone, without your step-father, about how you feel and what is upsetting you? Did you make your feelings clear to her before she remarried so that she was made aware of your trauma and how this would impact your living situation in the same household with your stepfather? If so, what was the outcome? If not, why?
You are a survivor of sexual abuse, and it is very important that you seek therapy. It is possible that you may have been in therapy when the sexual abuse first occurred (I hope so), but it is obvious that you are still experiencing a significant amount of pain and anger. I would highly recommend that you immediately find a qualified mental health professional who specializes in sexual abuse and trauma. If indeed, you are having panic attacks, it may help you to have medication (even temporarily) to transition into your new living environment.
I would highly encourage you to learn as much as you can about the dynamics of sexual abuse. Do you know that oftentimes victims of sexual abuse become promiscuous as a way to cope with having being violated? Oprah Winfrey, for example, has publicly talked about how she acted out sexually due to the sexual abuse she experienced.
Victims of sexual abuse also tend to have low-esteem because of what was done against them by a pervert. Are you behaving in ways that are sexually promiscuous and/or indicate low self-esteem? Are any of these things making life more challenging for you? What can you do to empower yourself so that you’re not a victim but a survivor who triumphs over her adversity? I would highly recommend that you read as much as you can on sexual abuse and conflict resolution.
My advice is that you tell your mum that you need to talk with her alone. Talk to her in a calm and clear manner about how you feel and what is most scary for you about being at home. Make no demands, but listen to her when she expresses her concerns.
It is important that you both strive to understand and value each other’s perspective. Often times, in these situations individuals feel the need to be right or think that their side is the only one that has merit. Good conflict resolution skills warrant that you recognize the other person’s position, express yours in clear terms, and then find a middle ground.
When you talk, keep in mind that the point of the conversation is not about who is right or more right. It is truly a dialogue to understand the other’s perspective and then find a way to have both of your concerns addressed so that you both win. She will have to consider your post-traumatic issues, and you have to find a way to understand that she has a marriage to maintain. She can maintain her marriage, but it does not have to mean that you live in fear in your own home.
As for the living at a university, it can be an amazing experience if you can handle the responsibilities that come with it. Just make sure that you carry yourself consistent with values and virtues that are God fearing, righteous and self-affirming. In other words, be careful that you do not fall into the haram activities that are very tempting, superficial and may be popular, but only serve to deteriorate your essence.
Regardless of religion, race, and gender, we all make choices in life that can help improve our life, maintain our status quo, or damage us. If you plan to live on campus, make sure you are able to handle the responsibilities that come with such independence. If you do not manage this in a way that meets your cultural, religious and familial expectations, recognize that your parents will lose trust in you.
If your parents are reluctant to let you live on campus now, it sounds like something has happened already that they do not trust you. What was it? Do they fear it will happen again? Is there some truth to their concerns? How have you helped or hurt yourself with your actions? Is there a possibility that you can rebuild your relationship with your mom, especially so that you can live on campus and she can trust that you are well, safe, and not living a sinful or haram life?
I hope that my advice here is a beginning for you and your mom to move things in the right direction. Please feel free to respond if I can be of further assistance. Take good care, pray often, and seek Allah’s (swt) guidance from Shaytan and all that serves to distract us from that which is important – serving Allah, serving the poor, and those who are vulnerable. Live your life meaningfully and honor yourself.
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