*Trigger warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors. Please read with caution.*
She sat there, in the corner, alone.
She had purposely picked the dark corner in the room. No one would force her to talk if she pretended like she was in prayer.
Her eyes stayed focused on the floor until the green zig zags in the carpet made her dizzy. People around her were trickling out of the room. She wouldn’t get up until the sound of shuffling shoes stopped.
She thought about the tackiness of the mosque. Between the green carpet and pink walls it didn’t stand a chance.
In her peripheral she saw a sister making her way towards her. She closed her eyes and felt the light footsteps shift and head in a different direction.
Life had been hard on her.
She never forgot that the room was yellow. She would grow up to hate that color and anything remotely related to it. Just the sight of a solid yellow shirt would evoke a feeling of utter disgust in her core. She recalled a time when she was doing good. The memories of him were beginning to lessen. That recurring nightmare had stopped. Soon after she came to that calm, a coworker pulled out a yellow notepad at a staff meeting. That was what set her off. A damn notebook. She fidgeted in her chair and eventually had to get up and step out. She would stay in her office and pop a Xanax. I just need 30 minutes to let the pill kick in. Later, when talking to her boss she would jokingly laugh and say, “You know Muslims pray all the time.” Using a religious excuse always worked in her favor because its motives could not be questioned. He would give her a half smile and know she was full of shit.
She had just turned nine the first time her uncle crept into her bedroom. Her body felt things it was not supposed to feel at that age. He lifted her underwear and stuck his fat fingers in places that she didn’t know existed. Lying frozen on her back all she would see was the yellow ceiling. This was the celling that watched her childhood unfold as she created makeshift hijabs for her dolls. Ironically, the same ceiling was about to witness the vandalization of her innocence and youth.
Screams would not follow direct commands. They would not come out of her mouth. Her mind and body would remain disconnected for a while after that. She would blossom into womanhood and sometimes feel betrayed by her own body. Orgasms felt good but the exhilaration was quickly followed by shame. So she would avoid accidentally brushing her nipples in the shower or watching a makeout scene in a movie too long. She didn’t want to evoke feelings that would lead to memories of yellow.
She didn’t know what to do or how to feel. Sometimes her prayers would involve asking Allah for numbness. She would bow with her forehead on the floor feeling every prickle of the wool carpet. She knew it was haram to ask for death, but by Allah, if she could have she would. It wasn’t fair. Allah was not being fair by giving her this burden. All those years. All those fuckin’ years he touched her. Allah must have been mistaken. He was mistaken for thinking that somehow she was supposed to duaa her way out of this. This test was meant for Aisha, Sumaiya or Maryam. Not her. Allah, in all His Majesty and Glory, was never wrong but in this instance He was. Just this one time He had made a mistake. She was sure of it.
A tear fell off her face. She didn’t feel it roll down her check. The carpet turned a dark green as it soaked up her hearts grief.
“Alllllaah, forrrgiv—…” She stuttered through deep, huffing breaths. Her heart needed a moment to rest.
“Allah, forgive me for doubting you and your trials.” She whispered.
Sometimes she felt stuck. Islam was her backbone but she doubted it at times. That feeling of doubt often led to feelings of guilt and remorse. Everyone said doubting meant you weren’t a “good” Muslim. Religious guilt often ate her from the inside out.
Throughout the years the thought of confiding in friends and family crossed her mind. One semester she had come home for break, which coincided with Ramadan. After attending tahajjud one night with her family she had a moment of clarity. A moment free of the anxiety associated with being judged and blamed for something the nine year old version of herself couldn’t prevent. She would tell her mother. She had decided.
Later she would back down.
That was the closest she came to exposing it all. She wanted people to see yellow for what it really was. She often questioned why lemonade, school buses and even smiley faces had to be yellow. The absurdity of it all. The sheer ridiculousness. People had been deceived. It was not a color of happiness and life. Yellow was an offensive, overpowering and a demanding of attention type of color.
So in a corner she stayed. Had her moment and afterwards went to the bathroom to wash her face. She opened the door and walked out the mosque while pulling her cardigan closer as her black hijab blew in the wind. It was starting to lightly drizzle outside. Rain was a blessing and in her quiet voice she whispered a small prayer.
She walked towards the white sedan and opened the passenger side door.
“Honey, what took you so long?” Her husband said smiling.
“I just saw Laila and you know how much she talks.” She said. He chuckled and shook his head.
She looked out the window. Days would pass. Everything would appear normal. In spaces, she would hide but remain physically present. People would think she was fine.
And she would never let them think otherwise.
I will start this off with saying you never know what a person is going through. One can never understand and comprehend the internal struggles and grievances of an unfamiliar heart. All of us are handed a different deck of cards in life. Some may consider their hand fair, others may not.
Never assume anything about anyone. Never assume the type of life or upbringing a person has had. In most cases those same assumptions will be shattered.
Muslims have a difficult time discussing healthy, consensual sex within the confines of a marriage. These discussions are extremely difficult to have in many cultural and ultra-orthodox circles. It leaves many Muslims feeling dirty. So naturally, it would make sense that molestation and rape wouldn’t easily make their way into our conversations.
Molestation, rape and incest happen everywhere. No one community is immune to this. The only difference is that religious circles (Christians, Catholics and Muslims) have somehow been duped to think that sweeping the issue under the rug will remedy the situation.
Facing and admitting the fact that there are ills, addictions and deep issues within religious circles is not easy. While we try to reach spiritual perfection some may get blindsided refusing to admit the stark reality. Certain things require professional help and simply praying your way out of it is not enough. That should be ok. We need to face our problems and work on healing victims of abuse. People shouldn’t be spiritually abused because they admit to trauma in their lives. I’ve heard of people going to Muslim leaders for help and being told that praying more is the ultimate solution.
Prayer is a part of the solution, yes, but not the end all be all.
Be open when it comes to discussing sex, especially with your children. Once sex is normalized in our communities then we can comfortably bring up the abnormalities associated with it.