Recently, I came across a situation that I did not know how to handle. I know of a woman to whom I wish to get married inshallah. Her manner is very good and she is working hard towards her deen mashallah as she was not raised in a Muslim family.
I made salat al istikhara several times and I believe the signs have been positive as everything seems to be facilitated and I have a good feeling about this future marriage. However, she recently told me that she was sexually abused by some other man some time before we met and got to know each other.
This man continued harassing her through messages, and some other men started to do that as well. He has tried to assault her on another occasion, but she was able to brush him off.
To this day, he still tries to talk to her. She is very disturbed by the pain this man has inflicted her with and she sometimes blames herself for everything that happened.
This story made me so angry at that man that I was obsessed with this for some time and all I could think off was to somehow get revenge for what he has done to her. I still truly believe this woman is a good woman, and it has not changed how I feel about our future marriage.
However, I don't know how to deal with this situation. I want to protect her, but at the same time, I don't want to get violent as I feel my emotions could get the better of me. I have thought of going to that man to talk to him, to threaten him or perhaps go to the police so all of this would stop.
I truly don't know what to do with this as I just want to do what is right, but I feel a great amount of pain by sitting and doing nothing or when I think of what this man did to her. Can you please help me as I am lost concerning this matter.
In this counseling answer:
- I would encourage her to contact the authorities to report this person.
- Please ask her if she is open to receiving medical and/or counseling care.
- Remind her that you are there for her and you do not blame her.
- Please Seek Counseling.
As-Salamu ‘Alaikum brother,
Thank you for writing us with your most important concern. Sadly and horrifically, it is estimated that 120 million girls worldwide have been sexually abused.
I am sorry that your fiancée had to go through this. I can imagine that for you as a man who cares about her, knowing that she has been violated and abused hurts you very much. May Allah (swt) bless you for supporting her, showing understanding and concern as well as wanting to protect her.
As a woman, I appreciate the fact that you acknowledge that it was not her fault, that she was a victim, and that you still think highly of her after she told you. This is so important, especially in this misogynist world that we live in wherein women are degraded, blamed, not believed, or shunned for being victims/survivors of sexual abuse.
Check out this counseling video:
How to Help a Victim of Sexual Abuse
As she may feel the continued attempted contacts as a threat, I would encourage her to contact the authorities to report this person. While I am not sure where you both live, please look up the proper resources for her safety and confidentiality should she decide to do this.
Please let this be her decision. Ask her how you can help and let the decisions be hers to make. Just be supportive of her choices. She needs to feel and be empowered at this time. I know this may be hard for you. I understand and appreciate that, but this is her healing path.
While you did not state if she received counseling after the abuse, please ask her if she is open to receiving medical and/or counseling care. RAINN suggests that even if the abuse/assault happened a while ago, it is always helpful to ask and offer support such as accompanying her or looking for information where she can get help.
There are also other things you can do that may assist her. For example, remind her that you are there for her and you do not blame her. Assure her that you realize she is a victim and you do not think less of her.
Express empathy by saying “this must be really tough for you; I’m so glad you’re sharing this with me”. This helps build trust and communicate empathy.
RAINN also suggests that survivors of sexual abuse may blame themselves and/or feel alone. Remind her from time to time as appropriate that it is not her fault and that she is not alone. Also “Remind the survivor that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story. As well as remind them there are other people in their life who care and that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they recover from the experience”.
Be Supportive & Caring
As she confided in you, it means she trusts you, brother. Please do reassure her that you will not break her trust by telling others. Keep your promise and do not tell this to your family, or friends, or anyone else.
She has disclosed a horrific experience to you. Reassure her that you can be trusted and will respect her privacy and will not discuss her experience with anyone unless she gives you permission. This is vital as she has been violated and dominated by sexual abuse.
She may feel a loss of control. As she trusted you by telling you, do let her know that the control of this information is in her power. Let her open up at her own pace.
Brother, please also educate yourself on sexual assault/abuse. There are many good resources online which can give you greater insight into this crime against women. It will help you to understand the possible psychological effects, the power dynamics involved in violence against women as well as the sociological-cultural underpinnings of this violence.
You stated that you felt a great deal of pain “by sitting around doing nothing”. This is not true. You are doing A LOT. Also you are being supportive and caring. And you are empathetic. You are showing her that you can be trusted. As well as you are empowering and respecting her in the decision-making process.
You are assuring her that it was not her fault. And you are making sure she knows she is still valuable, cherish, and not diminished in your eyes. These actions and feelings are the most important things you can do.
When you begin to feel angry or upset, understand it is a natural response when someone we care about has been assaulted or abused. Try to refocus your thoughts on helping her through the healing process if she is willing.
Try to remember that the anger and rage you feel is nothing compared to how she may feel. Therefore, she may need you to be in a space where you can just listen or provide help when she asks. In other words, be the calm that she needs right now.
If you feel you need someone to talk to, please do see a counselor. Even though you are not married yet, often times family members, even close friends, may seek to counsel in order to deal with their feelings. There is nothing wrong with that. But remember confidentiality.
So, don’t mention her name. While counselors are bound to confidentiality, your first concern is your promise to her to keep her information confidential.
You seem to be much grounded, brother. I am sure you will get through this and will be able to help your fiancée in her journey of healing.
And congratulations! May Allah (swt) bless you both with a wonderful and happy marriage.
We wish you and your fiancée the best. You are in our prayers.
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 through your decision in the use of our services.