Sister Space

Who will protect our girls?

By Laila Muhammad | Last updated: Nov 8, 2013 - 5:48:25 PM

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“In the process of my evolution, I became a victim of domestic war, an emotional casualty for a major portion of my life, entwined, entrapped and emotionally involved, until I learned how to become free.” ~Sara Niles (Torn From the Inside Out) 

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She started to withdraw from the outside world slowly but surely. Her clothes became baggy, her personality introverted, and she never wanted to go home. So after our evening classes we would stroll for hours in downtown Chicago, sitting in front of Buckingham Fountain, sending affirmations into the universe hoping one day to get something in return. Mines was to be this awesome photojournalist at Vogue, hers simply, was to one day get married so she could escape her mother’s home.

As a young woman still trying to figure out life, how do you ask the obvious questions? What do you say when you see the bruises, you see the tears in her eyes, you watch the promiscuity, the almost suicide attempts, and you hold her hand in Planned Parenthood clinics telling her one day her time will come and she will have a wonderful life with lots of babies and a good husband?

How do you put into words that you would kill him if he ever touched her again? That you hated her mother for being such a weak woman allowing a stepfather to abuse her first child all these years?

Her court case slipped through the cracks of a broken justice system because of pressure from adults for her to take back her statements. So I simply asked my parents, can she live with us? In the meantime she slept with a box cutter under her pillow, and wind chimes above her door to monitor things that go bump in the night.

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Though she didn’t have to be at work or school until much later, she left home with her mother to avoid being left alone with a predator. This is reality for so many young women.

When is enough enough?

As mothers and women, when do we intervene in the lives of our daughters, nieces, neighbor’s children when we see signs of domestic and sexual abuse? Is it the moment he chokes her until blood vessels in her eyes burst, or the broken arm he gives her when she tries to fight back?

Who will secure and protect our girls?

According to the National Children’s Alliance, the National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey and the U.S. Department of Justice 2010:

• Over 22 million women in the United States have been raped in their lifetime Nearly five children die every day in America from abuse and neglect.

• 18.3% of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape, of the 18.3% of women who have survived rape or attempted rape, 12.3% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 29.9% were between the ages of 11 and 17.

• One out of every five American women has been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Approximately 1,270,000 women are raped each year. Another 6,646,000 are victims of other sexual crime, including sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, or unwanted sexual experiences.

•93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. 34.2% of attackers were family members and 58.7 were acquaintances

•In 2011, an estimated 1,570 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States.  Approximately 681,000 children were victims of maltreatment (unique instances).

•46 states reported approximately 3.3 million children received preventative services from Child Protective Services agencies in the United States.

•Children younger than one year had the highest rate of victimization of 21.2 per 1,000 children in the national population of the same age.

•Of the children who experienced maltreatment or abuse, over 75% suffered neglect; more than 15% suffered physical abuse; and just under 10% suffered sexual abuse.

•More than 78% of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one or more of the child victim’s parents.

•Factoring in unreported rapes, about 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 15 out of 16 will walk free.

There comes a point when separation is the best and only solution. My college roommate and best friend almost died before others were forced to come to her aid and help her to separate from an abusive environment. She had to leave everything she’d ever known and start new.

If we want peace in our lives, we have to unite and become a community where crimes against women and children are met head on, stamped out and the perpetrator’s penalty fits the crime.

Women stop being so weak, let go of your feelings of insecurity, loneliness, despair, and selfishness! Know your worth, and never allow a man to misuse or abuse your children. Don’t wait until it’s too late, or until something like this happens to your daughter, friend, or niece. I leave you with the most six important words I have ever heard: Accept your own and be yourself! May Allah (God) bless us to always be watchful over our children, especially our daughters. Let us watch for signs as Allah (God) always sends us signs, let us use our intuition and be willing to make necessary changes so that our girls may have long, full prosperous lives and not repeat painful cycles with their children. Child abuse can end now, if we unite and take a stand.

(Laila Muhammad is a Chicago-based writer, videographer and Final Call production assistant.)

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