“It’s all your fault! You deserved it!”
The above words are commonly heard by victims of domestic abuse. And according to these words, it is they who are responsible for the actions of the abuser. I’m sure there are a number of “you what!”s escaping lips at this precise moment; however ask a person who has been at the brunt of domestic violence who they blame for their situation. More often than not their answer will be themselves. So many of their responses will start with ‘If only …’, ‘Maybe if …’ or ‘Perhaps I could …’ And they will continue to believe that they are at fault because the other person has been, for months or years, telling them vehemently and without hesitation that that is the case.
The only person responsible for their actions is the person who dealt the action. In the case of DV, the abuser is responsible for the abuse and not the person at the receiving end of it despite her ‘asking for it’. Before I continue with the writing of this article I would like to clarify that, although I will be using the feminine for the victim and masculine for the perpetrator, I am very aware that men can be victims and women perpetrators and I request that the reader please keep this in mind whilst reading on. What I mean by ‘asking for it’ is whatever it takes to really push buttons and cause one person to feel like hitting another. But the operative word here is ‘feel’. We may feel that way and that is a signal that we are angered by the other person’s behaviour. That does not, however, make it okay to hit or abuse anyone.
In a number of places within the Qur’an we are told that no-one will bear the burdens of another, for example:
“And no soul, as bearer of burden, bears (and is made to bear) the burden of another; and if one weighed down by his burden calls to (another for help to) carry it, nothing of it will be carried by that other, even if he be his near of kin.”
(Surah 35: Verse 18)
“…And whatever [wrong] any human being commits rests upon himself alone; and no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden”
(Surah 6: Verse 163)
These ayahs, I feel, make it quite clear that we cannot pass the buck; that any wrong we commit we place on our own shoulders and whatever wrong another does is not ours to bear, no matter how much they try to convince us of it or how much we love them.
When a victim hears those words of blame, so adamantly hurled at her along with words linking her ‘failures’ to Islam it is very difficult for her to separate the truth from the abuse. In particular, if she already feels not good enough. A perpetrator, whether he says it lovingly or harshly, is trying to push the blame away from him. We cannot move away from a situation or behaviour if we are not willing to take responsibility. If we blame, there is nothing we can do about it whereas if we take responsibility we have to act. When we blame we are saying we are powerless to change and when we accept responsibility we are taking a step towards change.
And as we know
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people, until they change what is within themselves.”
(Surah 13: Ayah 11)
But beyond the abuser telling the victim that it is they who are at fault, we can also have the family of the perpetrator, the community at large and sometimes even the family of the abused reinforcing this. We ourselves may have uttered the words “She must have done something for him to react like that! He must have been provoked!” How heavy must the burden on an already burdened soul feel when they hear such things? By saying these things what are we actually conveying?
I would like us all to consider and reflect upon the following ayah:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.”
(Surah 4: Ayah 135)