In this counseling answer:
•Worrying about what other people think, worrying about losing your husband, not being believed and called a liar is a reality. It is a frightening reality. However, in this reality lies the truth. You cannot hide it.
•Even if the perpetrator is his father, he should consider that you, his wife, are coming to him with a very serious problem of being sexually harassed and abused.
•I still urge you to confide in your parents regarding what is going on with the situation.
•Perhaps if you tell your parents in sha’ Allah, and go home to live with them, it will give your husband time to think about what is truly transpired.
•The Quran says Allah will not change the condition of a people until they begin to change it for themselves. As this applies to you sister, it means taking the first step, informing your parents and getting out of the situation if your husband cannot be counted on to help you.
As salamu alaykum sister,
Thank you for writing to us again about your issue with your father-in-law. I am sorry to hear that this abuse is continuing.
Fear of Disclosure
Sister, I totally understand how you would feel afraid to come forth with the truth. As you pointed out, your father-in-law has a big reputation in the community. His children love and respect him very much. To make matters even more difficult, everybody on your husband’s side of the family is very kind to you, and you don’t want to hurt them.
You also love your husband very much and you know that he loves you. These and other factors are understandably what is making it difficult for you to protect yourself against sexual harassment and abuse.
Continued Sexual Harassment/Abuse
Sister, you cannot be expected to live in a situation where someone who is supposed to be trusted, is doing very haram actions by touching you sexually.
Sister, as you love Allah and you are a good Muslim, and you live by the foundations of Islam, you must know that what your father-in-law is doing is haram and is against Islam.
It is vile in the eyes of Allah. As human beings we tend to look at our situations from the perspective of the Dunya, meaning we look at the worldly ramifications of any action we are to take. In situations such as this, it is easy to let the worldly outcomes override the spiritual ones.
Spiritually, as a Muslim you know that this behavior cannot continue, and that it is a violation of your body, mind, and spirit, as well as it is something that is haram. Worrying about what other people think, worrying about losing your husband, not being believed and called a liar is a reality. It is a frightening reality. However, in this reality lies truth. Your truth. And your right to not have to live a life that is inclusive of sexual harassment and abuse.
Spirituality & Losses in Dunya
As Muslims, we look at the decisions we make and actions that we must take and ask ourselves: “while this may hurt my life here on earth in one way, will it benefit my Islam? Will taking this action (such as telling someone about the abuse) garner protection for me from Allah?”
Your Honor as a Wife
Sister, I know your husband loves you very much and this is a difficult position to be put in. However, when someone loves you, they do not want you to be abused. They will protect and honor you. In this case, your husband should believe you and protect you as you are his wife. Even if the perpetrator is his father, he should consider that you his wife, are coming to him with a very serious problem of being sexually harassed and abused.
It just so happens that this perpetrator is his father. Is a very difficult situation for him. However, if he took the time to really investigate the situation and make duaa to Allah for guidance, he would surely see that is it is his responsibility to stand up for what is right and to protect you. You are a precious woman, a good wife, and a pious Muslim. Your word should be enough.
Respectability and Responsibility
You do not deserve to live in a situation such as this, no one does. Just because he is highly respected and prominent does not mean it should go unchecked. This is one of the problems with certain people who reach fame or are highly thought of in society. They are looked up to and thought of as infallible.
This type of status tends to negate any bad things that they may do either publicly or in private. It is strange how people can have this status in society and then get away with horrific behaviors. There appears to be a lack of accountability and responsibility is some cases. Reputation can supersede actual dirty deeds.
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Seek Help from your Parents- Love and Protection
My dear sister, in sha’ Allah, I still urge you to confide in your parents regarding what is going on with the situation. You stated that if your parents knew about what was happening, they would take you away from there. Sister, maybe that is what needs to happen. No parent wants their child sexually abused or harassed by somebody. They would take you away because they love you. That is what love looks like. That is protection.
This is the type of action and feeling your husband should have if he knew. Your husband should remove you from the situation once he finds out and confronts his father. However, as you stated he and his family probably would not believe you and everyone would side with the father. Is this the type of love and protection that you want?
I would kindly suggest in sha’ Allah that you look to your family for love and protection from this situation. They are the ones who believe in you and would take you out of the situation to protect you no matter what the status is of your father-in-law.
Future Children and the Threat of Abuse
Sister, if you stayed, not only would you have to continue living with being abused, living a lie, feeling guilty, and being afraid, you would also have to think about your future children. If you had daughters, would your father-in-law sexually harass and abuse your daughters? This is a very serious consideration.
How do you know he has not abused others in the family, especially children? Your life, your honor, and your right to live a harassment, abuse-free life is vitally important. To continue living in a situation where you are harassed and abused sexually will only further cause problems down the line.
Venues for Help
You cannot sacrifice yourself and what you know is right in Islam just because you love your husband and his family (except for your father-in-law). In sha’ Allah you will find the strength to stand on the conviction ofrighteousness. I understand, and I empathize with what it is you may lose, which is your husband whom you love very much. However, if he is following Islam and loves you, he will believe you and stand up for you. As you are confident that this is not what will happen, your safest avenue for help is your parents.
Time for Reflection
Sister, perhaps if you tell your parents in sha’ Allah, and go home to live with them, it will give your husband time to think about what is truly transpired. Perhaps Allah will touch his heart and give him insight and the strength to stand up to his father regarding those vile behaviors.
It is said that Allah will not change the condition of a people until they begin to change it for themselves. As this applies to you sister, it means taking the first step, informing your parents and getting out of the situation if your husband cannot be counted on to help you. I know it is a scary thought, and I understand the hardships and accusations you will be up against.
None of this is your fault. You are a victim. However, that is what people like your father in law count on-fear which induces silence in the victims. Thus, the transgressions continue…. until someone speaks up. It is a sacrifice in a way, because you may lose something that you love- your husband.
However, to stand up for your own dignity and rights as a Muslim woman will bring many blessings from Allah, and a peace of mind when you are free from living a life filled with harassment and abuse. Sister, please do think about this, pray on it.
We wish you the best,
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.