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What to Do with My Abusive Cousins?

Questioner

N

Reply Date

Feb 17, 2017

Question

I am having trouble with two of my female cousins. They have bullied me and taunted me since we were children. Now I am 27; they are 28 and 32 years old. As a child, my cousin took her frustration out on me. I felt really hurt. Simultaneously, her sister did the same to my sister on a less extreme scale. In addition, I have low self-esteem and self-confidence due to stress.On top of this, my father was sick, and I and my siblings were caring for him; our relatives didn't support us. When I was 6, my mum died, and so life has been really hard. My siblings and I have been working really hard. I am the youngest one.Now, my cousin, who bullied me, was getting married and invited my immediate family to the wedding after not communicating to each other for so long. My brother thought it was just another trick of theirs to bully us and asked them why they were playing these silly games.Before the wedding took place, the cousin, who bullied my sister, decided to stop her car and harass me; she swore and threatened me as she drove past with her mum in the car who did nothing. I asked my grandfather to speak to her, but he refused. The other sister came out of the house and joined her; her dad was there and did nothing to resolve the problem. He told me and my brother to go home and told his daughter to get into the house. I returned home and called the police. Two days later, a police woman officer came to my house. I explained the situation, and my cousin was warned not to swear in public. We were both advised to keep our distance if we did not get along.I need advice. I have ignored this problem for years, and it seems it is escalating. I fear that in the future I will face their wrath again. None of my relatives care to mediate because they are happy holding grudges, and they are happy for me to face the brunt of it.What can I do to prevent being the scapegoat in the family? How can I protect myself from these “games”? How can I protect my own mental health?

Counselor

Answer


What to Do with My Abusive Cousins?

Answer:

As Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

Thank you for writing to us about your very important concerns. I am sorry you were the target of bullying by your cousins from a young age onwards. It must have been a very difficult situation as your father was ill and your mom left. May Allah (swt) bless your endurance and patience with the situation.

Bullying is not something Islamic. I am sure your cousins are aware of this even though you state they are still doing it. While you and your sister are to be commended for growing up into successful young adults, you now have the emotional baggage and trauma to deal with.

For low self-esteem and low confidence, I would suggest dear sister that you contact a counselor in your area who deals with post traumatic events. There are skills and coping mechanisms you can learn from a therapist which will ease the past hurts and empower you, in sha’ Allah. Counseling will also help you “move on” in your life and let the past go.

You stated that for years you did not have contact with your cousins, and that you need advice as you have ignored the problem for years. I need to point out here that when (years later) they did send your family an invitation to the wedding, either a polite decline or an acceptance would have been the appropriate response. However, I am sad to say that perhaps your brother’s response of “asking why they are playing these silly games” may have re-ignited a feud that was long put in the past by your cousins and their families. Possibly, they sent you the wedding invitation trying to make amends. However, as you and your family still feel hurt from their past actions, you responded defensively which caused them to react in the same manner – thus beginning the fighting and bullying all over again.

While you have taken the steps to stop the bullying and abuse (telling your family, standing up to your cousin, having others around who have witnessed the bullying, etc.), you may also want to ensure that you avoid:

  • Getting into a fight with the bullyAvoid physical confrontation. Someone will get hurt. You might go to jail. It is likely that nothing will be resolved. If there is no immediate threat to life, don’t jeopardize it by brawling.
  • Returning the abuse Becoming a bully yourself is an easy trap to fall into when you feel hurt and angry. Resist the temptation to lower yourself to the level of your abuser; be the stronger person.
  • Acting out in frustration – learn self control when you are around this person and her family.

If you are being bullied, just walk away, don’t engage the person who bullies; it only feeds into what they want from you – a response. If you don’t give a response, the incidences will decrease, in sha’ Allah. If possible, avoid all contact with your cousin and her family, including Facebook.

Additionally, sister, as you are Muslim, you may to reflect upon the following two examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) responses to bullying as illustrated by OnFaith: “One is of the woman who always threw trash on him (saw), and how, despite this, he (saw) continued to take the same path everyday and refused to retaliate in anyway. The day she didn’t throw the trash on him (saw), he was concerned and went to find out what was wrong only to discover she was ill. He (saw) went on to help her and do his best to help her back to health.

The second is the story of the blind man whom the Prophet (saw) fed by hand while listening to him berating the “false Prophet” and “liar” the whole time. Only when the Prophet (saw) passed away did the blind man find out that Muhammad (saw) was actually the one feeding him this whole time. May we all aspire to such character.”

So my dear sister, please avoid confrontations, make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) that He (swt) grants peace between the two families; seek refuge in Allah(swt) and study Islamic guidance for how to handle the situation.

In addition, please seek counseling for your self-esteem and confidence issues; you may be surprised, in sha’ Allah, how it may change your perspective on not only yourself, but may give you insight into why people bully, leading to a clearer resolution to any future problems which may occur.

You are in our prayers sister. Please do let us know how you are doing.

Helpful Links

Adult Bullying

Adult Bullying Resources

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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