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Horrendous Flashbacks: Was I Sexually Abused?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Nov 16, 2017

Question

For years now I have been having this recurrent memory flashback where a man I know was sexually intimate with me. I was a child at the time like 7-8 or less I'm not sure. Whenever this memory comes to me, I see the man on top of me. I see the room where it happened, and I see white stuff around me coming from the guy (probably sperm). This memory just keeps coming back to me just like that for years and I would just repress it thinking maybe I dreamt it. Then one day I met his cousin. I was 16-17 then, his cousin is a female (she's older than me). She mentioned the man (her uncle) who tried to rape her and the memory I just mentioned instantly came back to me. I felt maybe it really happened. I didn't say anything to her though but I told my sister and she told me it's probably a dream but how can a dream be so specific? There was so many men around me at that time, my cousins, my uncle and his friends, neighbors and all that but it was just this particular guy who keeps coming to my head. Is it possible I dreamt it? Is it possible for a dream to keep coming as a memory as if it actually happened? I'm 25 now and with the talks of molestation circling the Internet now, I just can't seem to repress it anymore. If it actually happened, does that mean I am not a virgin? Do I have to tell who ever I want to marry? I am single and I hope to get married in a way that will please Allah bi'ithnillah.

Counselor

Answer


Horrendous Flashbacks: Was I Sexually Abused?

In this counseling answer:

“Sister, please do seek the counseling of a good therapist in your area. If you were sexually abused, continue with counseling to begin your healing journey. Always know that Allah loves you and He created you a beautiful, intelligent, and pious sister who will be blessed one day soon with a loving husband, in sha’ Allah, who will value you for the wonderful young woman you are.”


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

I am so sorry to hear of your flashbacks and to hear the possibility that you were sexually abused as a child. Sadly, the abuse of children is an epidemic worldwide. RAINN states that in every 8 minutes evidence is found that a child is sexually abused. It further states that 93% of the perpetrators are known to the child.

Sister, it is quite likely that you were a victim of child sexual abuse. I cannot say for sure, only a therapist who can evaluate you, your memories and any other symptoms you may be having can make that determination. However, based on what you have said, it does seem a likely explanation.

In cases of sexual abuse, survivors who recall the details years later often have a hard time determining if it actually happened or if it was a dream. They often wonder whether they got the ideas from somewhere which could cause them to think such thoughts. It is the mind’s natural way of coping with such horrific thoughts such as being sexually abused as a child.

Often times the mind can repress traumatic events in order to “survive the trauma” at that moment. As stated, later, often years down the road, these repressed memories come to our conscious and we cannot tell if they are memories of actual events or if we dreamed it.

However, sister, if you look at the context of these flashbacks, how could you dream this or make this up? At 6-7 years old a child just cannot and does not make this stuff up. Additionally, as his cousin stated that he tried to rape her, it even gives further validation that this could have happened.

I would kindly suggest dear sister that you make an appointment with a therapist/counselor in your area. She can assess you and help you work towards a resolution concerning these flashbacks.  Perhaps it will be coming to terms with being a survivor of sexual abuse as a child or perhaps she will help you unravel other details which indicate that maybe you were a witness to him abusing someone else. I cannot say, but I highly encourage you, sister, to seek out counseling to deal with this once and for all.

As you mentioned marriage, it seems that you are at a point in your life when you want some answers and possible healing in regards to these flashbacks and perhaps moving towards acknowledgment and healing if this did happen to you.

If it is found that it, indeed, happened, my heart goes out to you. You are not alone as many women are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In the US alone, approximately 1 in 5 women have been sexually abused as children and in Nigeria 1 in every 4 girls. This is a disgusting and appallingly high number of children and women who have been sexually abused/violated.

If you find that these flashbacks are, indeed, based on actual events, I encourage you, dear sister, to not blame yourself nor feel shame. You did nothing wrong. While it may be a traumatic event to acknowledge (if it did happen), acknowledging that it happened is the first step towards healing. 

Your therapist can be a great source of support for you in terms of a healing journey, linking you with support groups and other sisters who have been sexually abused. Your therapist will also help you deal with any mental health issues which may be present such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, trust issues and so forth. However, you will never really get closure on these flashbacks and find out if they are, indeed, based on actual events unless you reach out for help which I encourage you to do, in sha’ Allah.

As far as telling a future spouse, that is up to you, sister. Often times after women has sufficiently healed, they are willing to share their experiences in order to help others, to advocate for certain laws and rights for children and women as well as to help a trusted husband know them better.

Some women chose not to disclose what has happened to them. They are more private, or they may fear they will be discriminated against or not understood by others. They prefer to do their healing journey amongst other women who have been through the same thing. Both approaches are fine as it is a woman’s choice as to whether to disclose or not. 

If in fact, you were abused and chose to tell a future husband, I would kindly suggest that you wait until you are close enough with him emotionally, when you feel safe and you trust him with your feelings. This is not because it is a shameful thing for you. It is a horrific thing that someone did to you. Now you are a grown woman, a survivor, a strong beautiful sister who has overcome trauma as many women before her.

However, not all men can or will understand the nature of the crime. Some will, and they will be protective, loving, and supportive. Others do not have the intelligence or mentality and cannot grasp the horrors of abusing children and women and they will be callous, selfish and judgmental.

So, sister, with this said, no, you do not have to tell a future husband. It is none of his business unless you chose to.

In regards to whether you are still a virgin, sister, I cannot answer this as you do not know yet what has happened if anything. While your flashbacks may indicate you were possibly sexually abused, you may not have been penetrated.

Additionally, sister, while a value is placed on virginity in some societies, it should not be looked upon as a factor when choosing a spouse. There are many wonderful sisters who are not virgins due to being previously married, being widowed, or have reverted to Islam and changing one’s lifestyle.  Also, as stated, there are 1 in 5 women who have been sexually abused as a child. Therefore, for these women, it was not a choice.

It is my feeling that if one did not give consent to sexual intercourse when one is still a virgin as virginity entails more than just an intact hymen. In fact, there often is no such thing as an intact hymen.

Regarding the wedding night and the expectation of a hymen, which is a supposed proof of virginity, Psychology Today states that ”During childhood most hymnal tissue wears away as a result of washing, walking, athletics, self-exploration, and masturbation, though little bits may remain around the vaginal opening, particularly in the area closest to the anus (hymnal tags). By adolescence, any remaining hymnal tissue offers no significant impediment to using tampons or enjoying pain-free intercourse”.

Sister, I would expect that your choice of a husband would be one who places a high value on you as a Muslimah, as a beautiful and pious woman as well as an intelligent young woman with many fine attributes. While I understand your concern about virginity, please do look at our beloved Prophet and the women who were blessed to be his wife, and he was the best of husbands!

Sister, please do seek the counseling of a good therapist in your area. If you were sexually abused, continue with counseling to begin your healing journey. Always know that Allah loves you and He created you a beautiful, intelligent, and pious sister who will be blessed one day soon with a loving husband, in sha’ Allah, who will value you for the wonderful young woman you are.

We wish you the best, sister.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad

Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word poetry projects.

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