As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,
Thank you for writing to us with your question. I am sorry to hear of your family situation, especially the sexual abuse you were subjected to from age 9-15. It is truly deplorable and I am so sorry this happened to you. While we cannot go back in time and change conditions (such as telling someone, reaching out for help), we can move forward towards healing and reducing the amount of trauma that was inflicted. In addressing this issue, first I suggest you find a therapist in your area who can work with you on your past sexual abuse as well as current family situation. I would also suggest that you join a group in your area for Survivors of Sexual Abuse. While your family life right now is turmoil, being a survivor of sexual abuse and having to see that person day in and day out (even if he is your father) can have continued devastating effects.
RAIN discusses some of these effects including disassociation, flashbacks, depression, guilt, low self-esteem, flashbacks, and so on. Many other bodies of research also recognize that survivors of sexual abuse may often suffer from PTSD. I bring this up dear sister as you are still living with your father who sexually abused you and the abuse is still going on, only in a different form. You see and experience this daily which adds to your already fragile psyche in regards to the sexual abuse. I urge you to seek counseling for this. While you may not feel it is an issue now as it has stopped, subconsciously, there are effects that need to be addressed and you need to start the healing process.
As your father appears to be the “pillar of the community” and others may view him with honor and respect, it is true that we never know what goes on behind closed doors. Hence, in your case, while your father appears to be a faithful and honorable servant of Allah (SWT), he, in fact, is committing grave sins in regards to his family whom he is accountable to Allah for. Forgive him who wrongs you; join him who cuts you off; do good to him who does evil to you; and speak the truth even if it be against yourself.
So while your father’s treatment of you and your family is appealable and despicable in the eyes of Allah as well as against all that is Islamic, I implore that you find it in your heart to try to forgive him. Look at his behaviors from the viewpoint of a human being who is suffering from some internal horrors which only he knows and sadly is taking out on his family his own anger, hatred, and pain which he feels for himself.
While those who bully, lash out, hurt others, and display other heinous acts such as sexual abuse are vile in their actions, often times it is a result of their own internal pain. Perhaps even they were abused as children and are carrying that pain forward in their lives. While all this may not be helpful at the moment sister, in sha’ Allah, it may give you some insight later in life when things are more calm and you have time to reflect.
My suggestions for dealing with your home life now would be to include showing continued respect for your father, try to keep busy with activities outside the home, such as doing fun things with friends, engage in a hobbies, attend the masjid for prayer & Islamic activities, and make lots of du’aa’ for your father, and the healing for your family as du’aa’ is a powerful weapon against oppression.
I would also suggest dear sister that you attempt to engage your family in Family Counseling in order to develop coping skills and perhaps receive some intervention from the therapist. It is possible that in due time, once your father sees that the family is in counseling, perhaps he will join in. While there is no easy answer to your situation, these are a few things you can do to relieve the situation as well as bringing some balance and stability to the home. While at home, read Qur’an, do dhzikr, and rely on Allah (SWT) to grant ease and bring peacefulness to your home. After a time in sha’ Allah, if your father sees you reading Qur’an and praying, he might be reminded to act with less anger and with more Islamic qualities. We cannot change others, but we can change how we react to others. By your seeking refuge in Allah during your father’s angry outbursts, you are taking control of how you respond as well as setting an example for him which he will hopefully pen his heart to in sha’ Allah.
Lastly, as you are 25 years old now and adult, you may want to think about going to a university, or if possible, to find a place of your own to live, perhaps with some friends. While I am not sure how old your sister is, she also may be thinking along these lines as well. If not now, possibly in the near future. While I know you worry about your mother, she too has to make a decision to reach out for help and end this cycle of abuse. Islam is not a religion wherein family members are to be subjected to abuse; it is a religion of loving relationships, peace and tranquility. You may want to consult as well with your imam at the masjid.
Dear sister, I also want you to know your family is not atypical. Sadly, there is much abuse going on behind closed doors. It is an issue that our ummah must address, and it must be brought to the light so it can be corrected. I do hope in sha’ Allah that you will at least take the first steps in healing this issue by beginning to heal yourself from the abuse you have been through and are continuing to sustain. In sha’ Allah, by you engaging in regular counseling, it will bring much clarity and relief as well as giving you further strength and direction.
You and your family are in our prayers.
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