We want our children to live peaceful, happy and safe lives, but know very well that there are evildoers, blinded by their desires who will not hesitate to abuse children if they can get the opportunity.

They thrive on a child’s naivety and on parents’ denial that such evil could ever happen to their own child, especially not from seemingly genuine and close family members, family friends, neighbours, trusted adults (someone a child knows well, such as a teacher, sports coach, youth worker, scout/guide leader, etc.), peer (other children or teenage babysitters) or institutions.

Unfortunately, the idea of talking to our children about sex, sexuality and sexual abuse in an age appropriate manner is highly stigmatised in many Muslim households. This has prevented parents and carers from educating their children about sexual abuse and how to protect themselves from it. Some parents may wrongly believe that their silence about this subject is a form of Islamic modesty and hayaa and that speaking about it is immodest, shameful or encouraging of indecency.

It should be made clear that this belief is not from our religion. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) encouraged learning and teaching even about very private matters. In a Hadeeth in Sahih Muslim

[Book 2, Hadith 73], we are told that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) ‘taught about everything, even about excrement’ and in another Hadith reported in Sahih al-Bukhari [Book 78, Hadith 148], the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) did not hesitate to answer Um Saleem’s question about female sexual discharge.

Indeed, as Um Saleem -may Allah be pleased with her- stated before presenting her question to the Prophet peace be upon him: ‘Allah does not shy from telling the truth’ and surely neither should we.

The prophet peace be upon him said in a Hadith reported in Bukhari and Muslim: ‘Modesty (hayaa) results only in goodness’ [Bukhari & Muslim].  But parental silence about child sexual abuse only puts children in risk from evil predators and makes them vulnerable to incorrect or misleading information from friends, school and the media and hence it is not a form of Islamic hayaa.

Furthermore, the Qur’an speaks repeatedly the virtue of justice and the evil of oppression:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ  

[God commands justice, doing good, and generosity towards relatives and He forbids what is shameful, blameworthy, and oppressive. He teaches you, so that you may take heed] [Al-Nahl: 90]

And Allah says:

والله لا يحب الظالمين

[Allah does not love evildoers] [Al-Imran: 57]

By teaching our children about sexual abuse, how to identify it and be protected from it we are helping to limit a potential evil and are helping to minimise opportunities for a potential evildoer in our child’s life God willing.

According to NSPCC figures, more than 90% of abuse cases involve someone the child already knows, such as a family member or close friend.

The legal definition of sexual abuse is:

“Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children”

(HM Government, 2015: p.93)

Sexual abuse is can also take place on the internet. To learn more about e-safety, book a training here.

Indicators of Sexual Abuse

Physical indicators:

  • Injury to the genitals, inner thighs, and so on (with no consistent explanation of cause)
  • Persistent vaginal/urinary tract discharge or infection (however there are many other causes of infection)
  • Sexually transmitted disease

NB: There are often no physical indicators

Behaviours:

  • Age-inappropriate sexual knowledge and/or behaviour
  • Sexual preoccupation and/or compulsive behaviour (e.g. masturbation)
  • Sexually explicit language and/or drawings
  • Developmental delay
  • Headache, stomach pains
  • Depression and/or thoughts of suicide
  • Self-mutilation
  • Arson
  • Avoidance of particular people or places
  • Running away
  • Withdrawn
  • Changes in school attendance/performance
  • Aggression, tantrums
  • Regression or age-inappropriate maturity
  • Nightmares/sleep problems
  • Bed wetting (age-inappropriate) or soiling
  • Eating problems, bulimia, anorexia
  • Pregnancy and refusal to name the father

Most behavioural problems which indicate sexual abuse can also be caused by other difficulties. If behaviour indicators are present but the child has not made any disclosure, assessment must take into account all possible causes of the difficulties.

Sex education for children

In a secure and healthy parent-child relationship, there needn’t be any anxieties associated with discussing any topic. Topics such as protection from sexual abuse can be brought up regularly using every day issues instead of a one-off talk and to prevent the need for a big talk.

Below are some ideas for how to talk to children about protecting themselves from sexual abuse:

  1. Give proper words to all body and private parts. Teach your child that we use those words only when there is a need, such as when receiving medical care.
  1. There is nothing rude about our body. God made us, every part of us has its purpose, and the purpose of private parts is to create a family.
  1. When a man and a woman are married, it isn’t rude for them to see each other’s body
  1. It is normal to be attracted to the opposite gender, but enjoying that is only permissible for us when we are married.
  1. There are some people who do things to children that they’re only allowed to do in their own marriage.
  1. All covered parts and especially parts covered by knickers or vest must not be touched and are not for anyone to touch.
  1. If someone is touches you or talks to you in ways that make you uncomfortable or scared in the slightest way, this should not stay a secret.
  1. There is a good secret and a bad secret, you should tell me about any touch that makes you slightly uncomfortable.
  1. Stay calm and reassure the child/young person they have done the right thing in talking to you.
  1. Be honest with the child/young person so do not make promises you cannot keep.
  1. Do not promise confidentiality – you have a duty to refer a child/young person who is at risk.
  1. Acknowledge how hard it must have been for the child/young person to tell you what happened.
  2. Make it clear that they should not be scared to tell you.
  1. Make it clear that it is not their fault.
  1. Make it clear that they will not get in trouble.
  1. Make it clear that they will be listened to.
  1. People who do bad things to children like to get the child when the child is alone. If ever grabbed or picked up, the biggest deterrents is shouting, screaming and scratching as loudly and strongly as possible.

 

Learn more about Safeguarding children from sexual abuse and attend a child protection training to learn how Madrassahs and Mosques should ensure the safety of children on their premise.