“Living in fear [of domestic violence] is something extremely deteriorating on anyone, being in a situation where I’m afraid I’ll be slapped or beaten or insulted. It’s like constantly walking on eggshells…” says Samra, a former victim, and now survivor, of domestic violence.
In recognition of the need for community driven solutions to the problem of domestic abuse, ISNA-Compass recently hosted a workshop entitled “Safe Homes: Dealing with Family Violence”. The workshop consisted of presentations by SPICES, a McMaster University funded project aimed at improving healthy active living among Muslims in the GTA, and special guest Samra Zafar, a survivor, motivational speaker, and activist. The objective was to promote awareness about the different forms of domestic violence and their detrimental effects on families, as well as kick-start the conversation around our collective responsibility to support victims and eradicate abuse. About 25 community members came out to the event.
SPICES’ Zuhair Rahman began with a study of the Prophetic home and perfect Prophetic character, which should inspire our interactions with family members. Rahman further pointed to the Islamic impermissibility of verbally, emotionally and physically abusive behaviour towards others. This was followed by an analysis of scientific research on child abuse, elder abuse, and spousal abuse.
As discussed by SPICES co-presenter Mariam Mansour, statistics on the subject indicates that each of us probably knows a victim of family violence, whether we are aware of it or not.
But what does this mean for us as members of the ISNA Canada community?
According to Samra, there are limited options available to victims of domestic abuse, especially when the victim is Muslim. The advice from professionals is often to involve police or leave home, something that very few victims have the financial capability and emotional strength to do on their own. Advice from family members, on the other hand, can include directions to remain silent and tolerate the abuse for the “greater good” of keeping the family intact and avoiding shame.
This is where our support comes in. As community members, we need to notice when our neighbours, friends, or the person sitting next to us at Jumu’ah prayer, appear to be struggling and reach out to them. In Samra’s experience, friendships and “personalised support from someone who cares about you and understands you….rather than being treated as a case [in the system]”, can make all the difference.