Child sexual trauma is a disturbing reality in Muslim communities. According to one study,1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. Muslim children are not any more safe from victimization than non-Muslim children.
With reports of sexual abuse in Muslim communities, parents must face a stark truth that they must not be complacent about their children’s safety inside or outside of Muslim spaces.
The spectrum of child sexual abuse includes persuading or forcing a child to perform, imitate or witness sexual acts. It can be physical or noncontact (exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography) subjection to abuse.
The effects of sexual abuse on children can include:
Unusual interest in or avoidance of all things of a sexual nature
Sleep problems or nightmares
Depression or withdrawal from friends or family
Statements that their bodies are dirty or damaged, or fear that there is something wrong with them in the genital area
Refusal to go to school
Aspects of sexual molestation in drawings, games, fantasies
Extreme fear or anxiety
Suicidal behavior (source)
“There are undisputable long-term effects on childhood sexual abuse survivors,” said, founder of Buddy Speaks.
Childhood sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems, relationship problems and trauma.”
The impact of sexual abuse on a child’s development may is dire and often involves the inability for victims to create or maintain critical social boundaries.
The Importance of Boundaries
Shoatz explained the importance of boundaries to children.
“Boundaries and rules are essential for a child’s development. It gives them a sense of safety and security, helps them grow up healthy, and can assist with building life skills.
Boundaries also help set up positive self-esteem, allows children to guard and take ownership of their lives, establish healthy limits, and gives them a sense of power and self-control.”
Shoatz described how abuse hinders victims’ ability to form necessary boundaries.
“Sexual abuse is a boundary invasion, and children lose all control over their bodies and lives. When children are abused, their boundaries are not respected, they often become confused, vulnerable, and insecure.
Most abused children do not know how, or attempt to defend themselves from bullying, or their rights to individuality.”
How Parents Can Help
Shoatz encourages parents to find immediate help for their child if they have been abused.
“Therapy is an essential component to the healing process. Finding a good therapist who specializes in sexual assault and trauma and works with the whole family will benefit the survivor and family, supporting them through the healing process.”
Shoatz cautions against attempting to ignore the need for treatment in hopes the child will “get over it.”
“Without treatment, a survivor may not know how to process their emotions and will continuously relive their pain.
There is ample evidence that sexual abuse is damaging and warrants intensive and specialized intervention to stop the abuse and aid in recovery.
The psychological effects of child sexual abuse often cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Without proper help and treatment, the Survivor will live with shame, guilt, and blame into their adulthood.”
Shoatz holds a master’s degree in Special Education from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, and an Early Childhood Certificate from Lincoln University. She has taught Special Needs children in classrooms, and homes throughout Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and overseas.
Active in the Muslim communities of both Philadelphia and Delaware, Shoatz is CEO and founder of Buddy Speaks, an organization that provides preventative education and end childhood sexual abuse.