Dr. Ayesha Sadaf
Asra M. Khan
Carolinas House of Mercy
October is the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. First introduced in 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, it is a day of unity to connect battered women and their advocates. Domestic violence
affects millions of people, including men, women and children, and transcends race, religion, culture, status, and educational background. Domestic violence comes in many forms. Some forms leave no visible scars. In its six forms,
domestic violence can be physical, sexual, psychological/mental, verbal/emotional, financial/ economic, and spiritual/cultural/identity abuse. Abuse is defined as the systemic manipulation of another human being, in a negative and degrading manner. It is a pattern that tends to get worse over time, in intensity, frequency, and duration. Often, it is only the victim who sees the darkest side of the abuser behind closed doors.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men report experiencing some form of domestic violence each year in the United States. Predominantly the reported number of cases pertain to the physical form of domestic violence. In America, domestic violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime. These statistics pertain to the time before the world was catapulted into the Covid-19 pandemic. Alarmingly, calls to domestic violence hotlines and law enforcement agencies have spiked significantly, since the world began to shutdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus. Referencing a journal article in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the world’s statistics of domestic violence has risen so sharply, that in some countries it is reported to be as much as a 30% increase. This only includes the officially reported cases, as many cases often go completely unreported.
The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, has pointed out that violence is not confined to the battlefield, and that “for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes”. He called for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge and urged all governments to put women’s safety first, as they respond to the pandemic, which many governments neglected to do when lockdowns first went into effect. Life at home for women and children is made worse by the social isolation at home with their abuser, economic instability of the employment market, school closures, disruption of social services and the lack of funding for organizations who help women and children. These organizations were already woefully underfunded and financially strained before the advent of the pandemic.
Homes are meant to be places of tranquility, filled with love and mercy, not battlegrounds of power, control, and dominance. One of the Arabic words for home is ‘maskan,’ derived from the word ‘sakeena’ or tranquility, a dwelling of rest and repose. Sadly, there are many homes that are anything but homes. Instead, they are prisons filled with anger and rage, where raised voices, thrown objects, slammed doors, and other threats of imminent violence are common occurrences.
In sermons from the pulpit, we often hear of the rights of mothers and fathers and how these rights need to be honoured because they are sacred. What we don’t hear so much about, are the rights of children. Children have a right to be nurtured in mind, body, and soul. Children have a right to live in safe and secure spaces. Children have a right to grow and thrive in homes where the parents are a united front, where the foundation of the family unit is built on the values of truth, trust, love, respect, honor, dignity, kindness, gentleness and mercy. Statistics and research show that growing up in abusive homes has traumatic and life long impacts on children, especially if children are exposed to abuse from a young age, whether they are victims of abuse themselves or watch one parent being abused by the other parent. This can lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), behavioral changes, psychological issues, and even suicide. Girls who grow up in homes where abuse occurs, are at a greater risk of victimization as adults, and boys have a far greater likelihood of becoming abusers themselves.
Mosques, churches, synagogues, and other social and community organizations, as well as family units, individually and collectively, have an important role to play in the prevention and alleviation of domestic violence. Whether, it is in having difficult conversations in the home, or in the constant reminders from sermons, seminars, or classes taught to the youth and larger community, or in the planning and building of shelters, or in the establishment of services such as counseling, legal assistance and financial support, there is a role to be played by each one of us. Change begins with knowledge, education, and collaboration. We have to learn and educate ourselves, become advocates, use our wealth, influence, and networks to build institutions and services for the underprivileged and underserved women and children, who are trapped in or fleeing domestic violence. Even if we can’t change the world for everyone, we change it for one heart at a time, one soul at a time.
The Carolinas House of Mercy (CHOM) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by a team of sisters who are actively involved in the affairs of the immigrant Muslim Community in Charlotte. Upon coming into contact with women who are suffering in silence in abusive relationships, the sisters realized that an organized system was needed to help and cater to the unique needs of these women and children, fleeing domestic violence. Most of these immigrant women could not speak English, which prevented them from actively seeking help for themselves and their children. Since its inception, CHOM has helped many women in finding their way to a better life.
Website of CHOM: www.carolinashouseofmercy.org . Additionally, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1 800-799-7233 and their website is https://www.thehotline.org/. Safe Alliance is a local organization in Charlotte that also provides free support for victims of domestic violence and can be reached by telephone at 980.771.4673 and their website is https://www.safealliance.org/