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I am writing to you with deep sadness and depression. It has been 2 years since this terrible incident happened to my sister. To make a long story short, I was overseas doing humanitarian work and the very person I was training raped my sister. She is suicidal and no one in our family knows what happened. The worst part is the rapist has been rewarded in life. Please help me understand and advise on prayers.
Praise be to Allah.
It is unfortunate that much of the harm that humans do to each other is done to those closest to them. The statistics are startling. 80% of rapes are actually committed by someone the victim knows, and usually trusts. Your sister is certainly not alone in her pain. It may help her to be able to heal by knowing this. Can you try to find a support group nearby or online that she could join?
It will also help her to heal by letting her know that this incident was not her fault. She may be wise to not share it with those who will not understand but she does not need to hide it from those who will understand for she bears no fault in this matter. Often, the victim will feel that they are at fault for various reasons and they need to get beyond this before they can heal. A victim may feel they are at fault because:
1. They feel they should have struggled or protested more. In actuality there was probably little they could have done to stop the incident and the wisest move would have been to just let it happen quickly and with as little harm as possible. However, many victims will look back on this later and feel they are guilty for not resisting more.
2. They may feel guilty if they flirted with the person or let the person near them. They may feel that they may have given the person the wrong impression by dressing nicely or acting sweetly to them. However, this is not accurate. Each person has a choice how they will react to the world around them. If your sister was nicely dressed or laughed at a few jokes or was kind to the man on the day she was attacked this does not mean she is guilty in any way. She was seen by many people on this same day and has been kind to many people in her life and they did not make this horrible choice – the act of rape was completely this man's fault – no matter what she thinks she may have done to “encourage” him – there is no way to “encourage” someone to rape another person. Rape is a choice that the attacker makes – not the victim.
3. The victim sometimes feels it is their fault if they let the person in their home or were alone with the person. Once again, this was not their fault. Rape is a horrible act to choose to direct at another person and there is no excuse for that choice. Remember that attackers are often very clever in the techniques they use to get close to their victims. They are so clever, in fact, that even an older and wiser person may have also gotten “drawn in” and trusted this person. It is not the victim's fault that they trusted this person. Many other people probably do as well.
4. This is less common, but in some cases the victim will actually be caused to feel pleasure from the experience. This can happen when the person is a child or innocent and is not ready for what is about to happen for them. This can cause extreme confusion. The child/person does not realize that physical pleasure was something their physical body brought about without their mind or spirit's permission. This was something they could not control. It is like when the doctor hits a person's knee with a little hammer and the leg goes up. Sometimes, this can happen to rape victims. But this does not mean that they are guilty in any way. They need to know that their body made this reaction out of a physical response and not out of any mental, emotional or spiritual desire. They did not choose this response. However, this can be very confusing because we associate pleasureful feelings with good things so to have something like that happen during a horrible attack can be traumatic.
The last thing to remember is that most attackers usually leave their victim with some thought, phrase or action that tries to take the blame off of them. The attacker knows he did something horrible and wrong but he does not want to live with that guilt so instead he will say something to his victim to try to put the blame back on her. He may say, “Well I thought that is what you wanted” or “You made me do it” or “You seemed to enjoy it” or something like that. Once again, this person is saying these things because they are skilled in the act of deception. Whatever they say to their victim should be seen as a defense technique and not as anything valid.
Go through the four points above with your sister and make sure she is aware of them. Make sure she knows that she does not need to share with you which one (or more) of the four she is having trouble with, but that you just want to let her know that these four things are common with rape victims and that she should know she is not to blame in any way.
Usually, if the victim is able to feel at peace with themselves it is much easier to continue the healing process.
The next step is to completely break all ties with the victim. If you are in a position where you can prosecute him or take him to court then that should be done. If you cannot do anything about the situation at this time then she needs to let him go. Thinking about him, knowing what he is doing in life now, talking about him...all of these things are ways of letting him back into your lives. She needs to take back her power and prevent him from hurting her any more. He hurt her once but she can prevent this from happening again by not letting him in. If you are unable to do anything about the situation then have faith that fate will take care of this man and that Allah will take care of him. You do not need to worry that he is “being rewarded” or is not getting punished as he should. Life has mysterious ways of punishing those people who do horrible things. Of course, we can never know the complete wisdom of Allah and the future but we are told in the Qur'an and Hadith (Prophet’s sayings) that he will receive a fitting punishment in the next life if not in this one.
In the same way you can imagine “he is being rewarded in this life”, I can imagine that if I were the one giving him a punishment I would not give it to him now when he is single and young and does not have much to lose. I would wait until he was married, had a good job and some kids and then bring his punishment upon him. It would be much more painful at that point. So perhaps his punishment is waiting for the right time?
However, neither of us can assume to know these things by saying “he is being rewarded” or by saying even (as I did) that “perhaps his punishment is waiting for him to have more to lose”. We cannot know these things. Faith is about trusting that these things are being taken care of without us needing to know how. Faith is a gift to us so that we don't have to worry about such things. Worrying about his fate when we are given the gift of faith is like worrying about getting polio after you have been vaccinated. We are vaccinated so we don't have to worry about getting polio. We are given faith so we don't have to worry about some mysteries of life. One of the gifts of faith is to relieve us of some of the burdens of being human.
She needs to be able to:
1. Talk to others who have been through the same experience.
2. Talk to someone who can help her sort through the feelings of confusion and guilt she may still be carrying (a counselor who is specialized in this area either nearby or online)
3. Let go of ANY guilt associated with this incident.
4. Let his image, name and all other connections with him leave her life. Have her practice re-directing her thoughts when he comes into them.
5. Find a positive way to use this experience – can she help counsel other girls who have been through this? Is there something she can do that can help her feel that there was a positive outcome for this experience?
Blessings & Health.
Kristie Karima Burns, MH, ND
Question Date: 2010-12-19
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