Facing Up to Domestic Violence in the American Muslim Community

Domestic violence is a continuous cycle of gender-based intimate partner or family violence with a vital dynamic of power and control. It is intended to harm the physical and/or mental well-being of the victim and can be psychological, physical, economic or sexual. Domestic violence is a pattern of forceful behavior which includes control and domination by the abuser over the victim. Episodes of violence and abuse usually intensify in rate of recurrence and severity. In the early stages of the relationship the victim may not even realize that they are in an abusive relationship. When the victim does recognize what is happening they usually face various barriers to leaving the abuser. When there are no interventions in place to protect the victim and put a stop the violence or to hold the abuser accountable, the results can be traumatic. Domestic violence effects everyone in a family, neighborhood, community and ultimately our society as a whole.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.Every nine seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.Based on reports from ten countries, between 55-95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for assistance.

Muslim women are not excluded from this and in fact more victims are coming forward to tell their stories and get help. Interviews were conducted with nine domestic violence agencies that serve Muslim women and they reported that of the nearly two thousand women served annually, eighty-five percent of them were from an immigrant background. These women reported experiencing various forms of domestic violence, including seventy-four percent physical abuse, eighty-two percent emotional or verbal abuse and sixty-five percent financial abuse.

Domestic violence is not something that can be looked at in an isolated perspective. This is something, which ultimately affects our lives and those of our children. As a society, our failure to address domestic violence and abuse is like saying,” It’s not our problem, it has to do with the relationship between two people. If she’s being abused why doesn’t she leave him?” There are often many factors that prevent a victim from leaving the abuser. Some of these include fear of being alone, economic dependency, religious or cultural pressure, and lack of support from family and friends.

It is something which effects our perception of gender roles and stereotypes, like how we often see portrayed in movies and on television. Children view these and grow up with the same ideas about what it means to be male or female in our society. We are perpetuators of domestic violence by not holding the abusers accountable and letting them get off with just going through batterers counseling or anger management. This is not enough. This is why we must change our views and perspectives by addressing these issues. Becoming aware of domestic violence and abuse and its rising statistics is only the first step towards bringing about a change.You might be asking, “What can we do about it anyway?” I actually believe we can do a lot. We can start by saying it’s not okay and it is a problem that is steadily growing in our society.