For my sisters everywhere who have suffered, or are suffering, sexual abuse.
My sisters. Your little shoulders were meant to carry the lightness of innocence; the wonder of childhood. Your souls were meant to soar; tethered to the Divine, far above this lowly place.
But a heavy burden was thrust upon your little shoulders. A burden you were not meant to bear. It grew in height and strength. Like a wall laid brick by brick; becoming so vast it blocked out all light. It crushed your soul; snatched it from the heavens and dragged it into the darkest, most foul corner of the human experience.
Your little head looks up at the sky no more, but down, wondering what wrong you did to deserve this burden. Your eyes once reflected the light and beauty of an unseen world. Now they reflect the ugliness of this world. Your laughter reverberated in the assemblies of angels. Now it only echoes.
Your young mind knew nothing of the depravity that lurks inside others so you believed it was your fault. You blamed yourself. Your innocence stolen. It was your fault. Your wholeness shattered. It was your fault. Your sanctity violated. It was your fault. Your soul injured. It was your fault. You felt dirty, always dirty. It was your fault. Your very existence felt a crime. It was your fault.
No one noticed. No one cared. No one bothered to ask. Your misery was your own fault.
He was your guardian. He was your elder. He was your teacher. He was your protector. He was your uncle. Your cousin. Your neighbor. Named after prophets of patience and virtue. He spoke words of wisdom. Did deeds of goodness. The world testified on his behalf. Who were you to testify against him? Who were you to say otherwise? You were only a little girl.
My sisters. It is not your fault. Your suffering is not your fault. Your anguish is not your fault. Your humiliation is not your fault. Your pain is not your fault. The darkness brought upon you is not where you belong. It is not your fault. The wrongs committed against you are not your fault.
Your families, your societies remain silent. They think if they ignore it, not speak of it, it will not matter. But they do not know. They do not know that Silence testifies against them. Their inaction testifies against them. Their knowledge testifies against them. Their souls testify against them. They put you in a place of darkness not knowing the darkness in which they are has no escape.
You have suffered. You have survived. You will survive. You must survive. Your shoulders bear a burden theirs cannot bear. Your soul has withstood torment theirs cannot withstand. You face the world; they cannot face themselves. You have come out of a darkness they will not survive.
If you cannot know this now. You will know it soon. You are far better, far greater, far stronger than them.
Maria Khan is a wife and working mother to a six month old baby. She hopes to empower her fellow Muslim sisters and give voice to the issues they face.
Photo Credit: Patrick.