Child Abuse Statistics in the Peaceful Families & Project Sakinah 2011 Survey
4/16/2013 1:41 PM
by Allison Celik
April 15, 2013
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Child Abuse Campaign page.
Over the past year, I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of different people
about the survey we completed in conjunction with the Peaceful Families Project;
The Attitudes and Experiences of Muslim Men and Women towards Domestic Abuse. We
had 801 Muslims who live in America respond, making it the largest survey of Muslim
Americans regarding domestic abuse ever done.
I’ve talked to college kids, stay at home moms, professional dads, professional
moms, grandmas and grandpas, and almost anyone else you can think of. Oddly enough,
all of these different people have given pretty similar responses that fall into
one of two groups:
“What are you saying? That I can’t discipline my kids anymore? Or I
should just let my wife run off and spend all my money? Sometimes people need to
be stopped from doing what’s wrong!” Or
“I am so glad you are raising awareness of this issue! The way that (other
ethnic/linguistic/cultural group) treats their family members is just awful! I am
so glad that my (ethnic/linguistic/cultural group) doesn’t have any problems
Sadly, neither one of these understandings is true. As Muslims, we are asked to
help others (especially our family members!) to stay on the straight path, to raise
our children in Islam, and to encourage each other to do righteous deeds. In my
mind, there is a clear line between supporting and encouraging our family members
to do what’s right as opposed to creating an environment where people live
in fear of each other, fear of doing something “wrong”, fear of being
mercilessly punished for an honest mistake. People (even children) can usually tell
when they are in an environment where they are loved and respected vs one where
they are belittled, neglected or harmed.
Different groups of people might have different ways of expressing love, respect,
appreciation and support for family members, but this doesn’t change the fact
that in every culture, in every language, every religion, you can find people who
feel like they have a caring and compassionate family, and others who just can’t
wait to leave all the negativity behind.
This is what I say to the people who tell me that “their people” never
do anything like “abuse”, it’s all those other Muslims. In the
801 respondents we had to our survey, we had respondents from every ethnic group
imaginable, as well as every income level, education level, age level and any other
“level” you’d like to slice things up by. Sadly, our survey results
show experiences of abuse that are, in many cases, actually higher than national
Our survey showed that 1 out of every 3 respondents had experienced some type of
abuse before the age of 18. The table below breaks these numbers down even further.
Total respondents in survey overall
Experienced some type of abuse under age 18
Physical abuse under age 18
Sexual abuse under age 18
Honestly, out of all those numbers, the one that sticks in my mind are the 90 children
(83+7) who experienced sexual abuse. Every time I think of that number, I think
of the following Hadeeth - "The believers, in their love, mutual kindness, and close
ties, are like one body; when any part complains, the whole body responds to it
with wakefulness and fever."
Are we responding with “wakefulness and fever” to the complaints these
children have? Is their distress and sorrow keeping us away at night?
What is even more tragic to me is that when you look at the survey closer, you see
that it was (as is so often the case) their very own parents who were the abusers.
We must ask ourselves; As a community, do we have an environment in which children
who are being abused can come forward and talk about it with an adult they trust?
Do we make it clear to our children that this kind of behavior is not ok, and we
will believe them if they tell us? Even more basic, do adults in our community feel
like they can ask for help and support when they need it, or are they worried about
community backlash if they don’t act “appropriately”.
This is a difficult conversation to have even at the best of times. Even if (alhumduliah)
your own family is loving and respectful, chances are high that you or your children
already know a victim of domestic abuse. How can we strengthen our own families,
so that we can support other families in our community when they need it?
As a community, we must be able to talk about these facts openly. We must be willing
to acknowledge that these abusive behaviors and other family struggles exist. Islam
is perfect, but Muslims are not. And sometimes people do horrible things, things
that are wrong by any law. People are people, and people struggle.
SubhanAllah, for many of us, our faith is a critical resource, a pillar of our identity
and our definition of community. The friends, family and neighbors that we find
in our community are often important aspects of support as we travel through life.
As members of our community, we can open conversations about healthy families, we
can express concern when we suspect abusive behaviors, we can reach out to our friends
and families to gather community to stop family violence.