The headlines are totally shocking.
The council of Islamic Ideology recomends violence against women. Chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani clarifies that he doesn’t permit violence that damages soft tissue or bone, and men cannot use implements like brooms, but that light physical harm is permissible and effective for intimidating women into compliance. Light beatings are advised as punishment for women who refuse sex, violate dress code, speak too loudly, or socialise with non-relatives without express permission.
Using a small stick and inciting fear keep wives disciplined, it argues.
I’m looking for leaders in the community to unequivocally renounce this ideology from the Islamic community. The threat to women and children for generations is absolutely devastating. Lives are ruined for generations because of abuse. This type of treatment of women is evil. To have a political platform based around such behaviours where such actions are broadcasted to the masses is terrifying.
I don’t know what to do about Pakistan, but I do know how to help women in my community who are impacted by domestic violence.
I cannot shout this loud enough: The maltreatment of women by intimate partners is not just an Islamic problem. It knows no social or religious boundaries. There aren’t any neighbourhoods or cultures untouched by domestic violence.
1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence
It seems to me, I’ve been meeting that 25% disproportionately. I’ve learned so much helping women file police reports, get restraining orders, get financial and emotional support through non-profit organisations and other resources they need to successfully leave. Statistically, women who leave these relationships will return because it takes enormous inner strength to successfully break the stronghold and cycle of abuse.
Here is what I want people to know:
Abuse has been redefined.
Early in 2016, the UK government recognised that abuse is not just bruises and battering, creating new laws that hold perpetrators criminally accountable for intimidation, threatening, stalking, exploiting resources, withholding finances, micromanaging another persons’ time, social contacts, or prohibiting religious expression. This new coercion and control law is a huge victory for victims.
Why don’t victims leave?
Abusers carefully select women whose life experiences put them at risk for tolerating a hostile relationship. Many have low self-worth, few social contacts, are deprived economically, or were abused as children. The men then slowly weaken resistance by making their partners feel they deserve ill treatment. Isolation, taking away finances, and threatening physical harm or death to loved ones decreases the likelihood of victims escaping.
The cycle of abuse is predictable.
No one would tolerate being controlled in the beginning stages of a relationship or constantly. Abusers often are affable and charming in bursts. They slowly increase the control through a tension building stage which eventually erupts into an incident of verbal or physical abuse. The abuser will then minimise, dismiss, or excuse bad behaviour and often the victim will believe they are solely to blame during a reconciliation phase. Following the explosion, a calm or honeymoon phase happens where the abuser promises change and is lavish in his/her affection- until days, weeks, or months later, when tensions begin building.
In between the abuse and leaving there are things to be doing.
The government and law are on a victim’s side, but proving legally what you have experienced can be aided by doing several things even if you aren’t sure you want to or can leave. The difficulty in getting charges to stick is that cases can become a he said/she said battle. Here are some things you can do to build your case starting now
- File a police report. You don’t have to press charges, just make a phone call about each minor incident, so when you are ready, the facts/dates/time are there. If you suspect abuse or someone tells you about something, you can report it, too.
- Tell someone. You need people to be witnesses- even if it is a minor incident; these people can be called upon to build your credibility. Organisations can help you make an escape plan, including safe houses, financing, and counselling. Be cautious when contacting organisations. Do so from a safe place. These organisations will help you keep safe during the process.
- Record a journal. Recalling details as they happened, even better if you can get it time stamped by emailing it to a secret account or getting it postmarked and sealed. If someone tells you about an incident, but asks you not to report it, do record what they told you. It can be used as evidence later. Do not use a computer or phone your abuser has access to. Activity can be monitored.
- Photographic evidence. In the days of technology, getting an incident recorded is a major asset. Whether it is texts of harassment, audio recordings of death threats, or video of him telling you what to wear, this information can be what determines guilt or innocence.
- See a physician or counsellor. Even if you lie about the reason, having a doctor document physical abuse or emotional impact can be very valuable in court. Discussing with your doctor that you have extreme anxiety, are not sleeping, have pain/marks, can aid in getting a conviction if and when you are ready to use it.
- You aren’t alone. Here are just some of the resources designed to help in the UK. There are hundreds of organisations across the UK specifically for survivors. Local churches, shelters, police officers, social services often have dedicated teams who are trained to address the specific needs of survivors.
- It isn’t your fault. Abusers will make you think the opposite, but you are a victim. Emotional counselling is available to help undo the extensive damage of domestic abuse- helping your recognise why you were culpable, how to heal, and how to recognise signs of abuse in future relationships.