A Thank You Note to My Father
I was 12 years old when I was sexually assaulted by a boy who went to my school.
I’m not quite ready to talk about what happened but I speak about what happened after my assault took place. It occurred at my middle school on the last day before summer vacation.
My assaulter had an accomplice who helped him execute the assault. Immediately after it happened the whole entire school was already talking about it. Not even 5 minutes after the assault occurred the slut shaming began. The accomplice was openly telling the school that he witnessed me “getting f*****”. People who didn’t even know me were telling me I wanted it. I was asking for it. Yelling to me “you got raped admit it”.
I’m not sure if these kids even understood what the nature of the word rape even meant. I felt disgusted in my own skin. Inshallah I will have more strength in the future to go into more depth about what everything that occurred. However, this verbal abuse that I endured from hundreds of my so called “classmates” internalized me to believe that I deserved what happened to me. It internalized me to think that before heading to school that day I knew this was going to happen to me and that’s why I didn’t stop it from happening. It internalized me to believe that my begging and pleading for my assaulter to stop was actually just me being complacent and being a tease.
After my assaulter took advantage of me, I remember asking him if I can go now and he said to me “yeah you’re not a virgin anymore anyways”. Those words have haunted me to this day. I really thought my virginity was taken away from me and that was it, I had no more integrity.
No more honour. No more haya. Nothing left.
That summer changed me. I was terrified to leave my house and run into the kids in my neighbourhood because I thought they would slut-shame me publicly in front of my parents and they would find out I “wasn’t” a virgin.
For years I was mortified for my parents to find out. I thought that if they knew they would think that I committed Zina intentionally and that I was asking for it the way my peers had taunted me about it. Especially my father. I was so scared he would look at me with disgust and shame or even disown me. This secret ate me alive.
My behaviour at home changed completely. My inability to express myself to my parents caused a lot of hardship at home. I felt my relationship with my parents deteriorating. I knew that I was acting out because I hadn’t dealt with my trauma, but I didn’t know how to tell them that. How could I? At a point in high school, I was labelled the rebel without a cause. I felt that my relationship with my parents was completely abandoned and there was no hope. So, I buried my trauma deeper and deeper each day until I forgot was what I was even angry about anymore.
At 18 I got fed up of constantly bickering with my family. I wanted a better relationship with them. I wanted to stop being angry for no reason. I wanted to put my aggression to bed but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even realize that my assault was still affecting me after all these years. I thought because I buried it that it and it was dealt with and that I had moved on. Until one day, I was talking to a family friend, who is like an aunty to me and somehow, she figured it out.
She was able to recognize that I was lashing out because I went through something that scarred me. I was so scared to admit to her that the discovery she made was in fact true. Eventually in our conversation I vaguely expressed the occurrences of my assault. She encouraged me to talk to my parents. Because of my fear I couldn’t bring myself to do it even though I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew there was no point of keeping it inside anymore because that pain was only hurting me further and wasn’t allowing me to make progressive changes in my life.
I gave her permission to let my parents know I was assaulted in middle school without telling my story for me. As she did, I hid in my closet panicking over how my parents were going to react. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I felt a sense of relief. After she spoke to my parents she left, and my parents came to my closet and they both gave me the biggest hug. They both told me how much they loved me and how much they value me. They were sympathetic and apologetic that they did not know what had happened to me. I was overcoming all kinds of emotions because I did not once think they would be so sweet and understanding nor did I want them to ever feel sorry for not knowing because it was not their fault in any way.
I did not want them to bear that burden of guilt. In Pakistani culture, there is a stigma that puts lot of pressure on girls to uphold their families “izzat” (honour). I was worried that this would tarnish my parents reputation and I never thought my parents would be this compassionate towards me after all the trouble I put them through the past couple of years. Wallahi I could not believe that they were nothing but supportive and caring, my parents izzat was not in jeopardy because of a tragedy that happened to me beyond my control nor did they ever make me feel like it was.
My father had my back and made sure I felt protected and secure when sharing my story with him, nor did he act on impulse. He never once questioned my character or make me feel unworthy the way I thought he would. He gave me my space to openly express my trauma with him without judgement.
The next day he asked me if I would like to take my assaulter to court and reassured me that he was willing to fight for my justice no matter the circumstances. I told him that I wish to make my peace with it and rather not act on it any further.
He looked at me and said, “the greatest gift and honour is having you for a daughter”.
My father I use to watch Disney movies all the time as a child, Mulan has always been his favorite. For him to look and me and use a line from that movie after me being so fearful that I would ruin his Izzat a moment that will cherish forever and always. After this moment, we never spoke of it again as per my wishes, Alhamdulillah.
I’m sharing this story because sometimes we underestimate how understanding our parents are. I’m not saying that anyone should feel obligated to disclose what happened to them to their parents especially until they are truly ready and comfortable to do so, but I do want to let you know that a lot of our parents are way more compassionate then we give them credit for.
My father has always supported me in ways I never even recognized but I truly now see what a lucky girl I am to have such a humble father that does not conform to cultural norms that would negatively impact our dynamic with each other. I realize now that my assaulter didn’t take my virginity away from me either.
You cannot take what is not given. And I’m not going to allow him to hold that power over my head any longer.
These are lessons that I learnt on my own and although my father has encouraged me to seek therapy for the sake of my own inner peace, I have not been able to bring myself to that stage of my healing process yet. For now, I believe it is more important to take back the narrative that was taken from me and I hope that Allah gives me the strength to speak to a professional about my trauma one day, inshallah.
I named my story “A Thank You Note to My Father” because without his warmth, vulnerability, openness, understanding, support and most importantly his love, I would be a lost woman today. I would not be able to reclaim my story and unpack my trauma in a healthy manner. It’s a process and I’m growing day by day and it wouldn’t be possible without the help of my father.
Thank you, Baba, for never making me relive that day. Thank you, Baba, for being willing to bring me my justice even if that meant tainting your name in the community. Thank you, Baba, for never slut shaming me nor making me feel unworthy. Thank you, Baba, for being patient with me and holding my hand through all my mistakes and the trails I put you through during my rebellious stage. Thank you, Baba, for never giving up on me. Thank you, Baba, for making me your pride and joy even if I did not live up to your expectations. Thank you, Baba, for loving me unconditionally. There’s no man on earth I would want to reunite in Jannah with other than you.
I also want everyone to know that it is not and never ever was your fault.
I know it’s hard to believe when people have conditioned you and put that narrative in your head, but I promise you I believe you and your story. I know you did not ask for it. I know did not want it. I know you asked them to stop and they deliberately disobeyed your wishes. I know you did not put yourself anywhere near a position for this to happen to you. I know you were not complacent, nor did you give consent.
Your assault does not define you. It is not who you are. It does not add a body to your roaster. It does not make you less of a woman. You are so much more than what happened to you. I hope anyone who has been affected by a tragic experience finds peace and happiness and most importantly is able to move past it in a healthy manner because it’s what you deserve the world and the world deserves to see you be prosperous in all your endeavours, Ameen.
Some of us may not be able to bring our assaulters to justice in this Dunya but Allah is Al-Baseer and As-Samee and his punishment for them in the hereafter will be far worse than it ever could’ve been in this Dunya.
My Baba’s Izzat.