This week was much like most other weeks in our household. Like most families with young children, we raced to our jobs, barely made drop-off and pick-up timings and were exhausted by 8:30 when the kids were (finally!) asleep.
What made this week different was that my wife–who is a strong and determined survivor of a sexual assault–was triggered.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can happen at any time, but is most likely when a survivor is reminded of or meant to relive her abuse. As Samar Kaukab Ahmad described in her article yesterday, “Behaviors and situations (including jokes about violence against women) can ‘trigger’ flashbacks to traumatic events, and other unwanted symptoms like panic attacks and the compulsion to self-harm.” It doesn’t need to be an international incident like Abu Eesa’s triggering words. It can even be something small. Ahmad writes, “a single ‘joke’ or off-color comment, can devastate a survivor or co-survivor’s ability to get through the day, to focus on their studies, to excel at work, to be engaged parents, to fulfill their roles in society.”
My wife’s work days were miserable this week. She found herself holding back tears in meetings. She became agitated at random Facebook posts. Her normally calm and beautiful demeanor was interrupted by a man across the sea spewing his hate. Spewing it directly on her, she felt. The triggers continued with the accusations of fitnah and people coming to Abu Eesa’s defense, including, shockingly, many women.
We got through the week, Alhamdulillah. We held hands. I tried to listen more carefully, I held her in my arms for a long time.
If you knew her, you’d know she’s not a shrinking violet and doesn’t need me to defend her, but on social media, I was on fire. I fought with anyone who would take the bait. I did because I don’t know what else to do. My people defend one another when any among us are threatened.
So, while AE justifiably endured a endless backlash for his hateful comments, my family suffered, mostly in silence. The dishes piled high in the sink, unwashed. The kids got leftovers for their lunches. And, instead of relaxing on the couch for a few minutes before going to bed, my wife held my arm a littler tighter than normal. She stared at the icicles hanging from our trees for a moment longer. And, she enveloped our daughters, in particular, with her maternal strength, with slight more resolve before bed each night.
Might not sound like a lot to others, but this week was a hard one. Harder than usual.
And it didn’t have to be this way. We all, but especially we Muslim men, must break this cycle of rape culture machismo. We must be #MuslimMaleAllies, but we must also learn to speak, to act, to love in the way of Allah’s Habib, who said “The best of you are those who are best to the women.” (Tirmidhi)
Anonymous is the proud partner to a purposeful survivor and father to three beautiful children, MashAllah.