Samiha Khan’s story is part of a larger narrative
Everyday thousands of children are being sexually abused. You can stop the abuse of at least one child by simply praying. You can possibly stop the abuse of thousands of children by forwarding the link in First Time Visitor? by email, Twitter or Facebook to every Christian you know. Save a child or lots of children!!!! Do Something, please!
3:15 PM prayer in brief:
Pray for God to stop 1 child from being molested today.
Pray for God to stop 1 child molestation happening now.
Pray for God to rescue 1 child from sexual slavery.
Pray for God to save 1 girl from genital circumcision.
Pray for God to stop 1 girl from becoming a child-bride.
If you have the faith pray for 100 children rather than one.
Give Thanks. There is more to this prayer here
Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour
Tuesday, 19 December 2017
The Silent Lives of Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors in America’s South Asian Diaspora
One Survivor's Story
Samiha Khan’s story is part of a larger narrative
(Kati Szilágyi for The Lily)
Editor’s note: This story contains sensitive stories about childhood sexual abuse. Some of the women who came forward in this story could face negative repercussions within their communities for sharing their experiences. The Lily has chosen to protect their identities by not using their real or full names.
Bina really believed Samiha was going to come home that night.
It was a cold Wednesday evening in November 2016. Bina* had just gotten off the phone with her 23-year-old cousin, Samiha Khan, who assured her that she was on her way home.
“I told her what I always tell her when she’s upset,” Bina said. “You live in a house full of people who love you, and we’re waiting for you. So, come home.”
She was still suspicious. She had offered to call Samiha an Uber, but Samiha insisted she would take the subway.
Instead, she threw herself in front of one.
In the days following her death, Samiha’s best friend, Annie*, tried to make sense of what had happened. They had grown up together in the Bangladeshi community in Queens, New York, and attended the same school. They cooked and baked together during holidays. When Annie went off to college, Samiha visited her. On Annie’s birthday, Samiha threw her a surprise party.
But before all of that, there was a part of Samiha’s life that would go on to haunt her over the years, leading to numerous suicide attempts. Beginning at age 8, Samiha was sexually abused by her father, Annie says. The abuse continued well into Samiha’s teenage years. Her mother knew, but discouraged Samiha from reporting it to the police, her cousin, Bina, says.
Annie didn’t find out about it until their college years, when Samiha was no longer living with her parents.
“When I came back from college for break for the first time, Samiha told me why she had moved out of her house,” Annie says. “That [her father] would molest her, abuse her, pull her hair. And then he would threaten to kill her if she said anything to anyone.”
Child sexual abuse in South Asian communities
Samiha’s Bangladeshi community in Queens is one of the country’s largest South Asian immigrant populations, which has grown exponentially over the past few decades. Between 2000 and 2010, the South Asian population became the fastest growing major ethnic group in the United States.
Many migrate to the United States for better opportunities, often trading careers in prestigious fields — such as academia, medicine or other high-ranking posts — for blue collar jobs.
And they do it all — leave their homes, learn the language, adjust to a new culture — for one reason: to secure a better future for their children.
And yet, it is the children who suffer in silence. Nitasha Chaudhary Nagaraj, a research scientist at George Washington University, co-authored a 2016 report that surveyed South Asian adults in the United States. About 25 percent reported having experienced childhood sexual abuse. Nearly 22 percent of the victims grow up to have suicidal tendencies, which Nagaraj says is higher than in other ethnic communities.
Such abuse often goes unreported due to cultural and familial stigma. Filial values are also very strong in South Asian cultures. Parents are authority figures, meant to be respected, not questioned.
“Children are not seen as autonomous individuals in our culture. They’re seen as little people that you tell what to do,” says Yumnah Syed, a former youth empowerment advocate at Sakhi for South Asian Women, a nonprofit organization in New York.
“In a way, we don’t value our children enough,”
says Syed, who now works at Adelphi University’s Institute
for Adolescent Trauma Treatment and Training.
In the years before her death, Samiha suffered much of her mental health struggles in silence.
“She was very quiet in the sense that she would think very carefully before she spoke,” Bina says of her cousin. Samiha often did not share her feelings because she did not want to “burden” others.
When she was 16, Samiha attempted her first suicide. She tried to overdose on Tylenol. Soon after, Samiha moved in with Bina’s family.
“We would get on each others’ nerves, and then we would be ordering a bunch of junk food and watching movies together,” Bina recalls.
Exactly one month before her death, on Oct. 2, 2016, Samiha posted on social media about how her depression and anxiety often made it difficult for her to get out of bed.
“i just want to remind everyone — especially those with mental illness — that it’s okay to let yourself cry, get sad about things, and feel things intensely,” she wrote on her private Instagram account.
“i also want to remind everyone to be more understanding of those with mental illness,” she continued. “ … just because you cant see the pain doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
On the day she took her life, Samiha failed her driving test. Perhaps it acted as a trigger — in addition to other struggles she had been facing, such as a fallout with her former boyfriend. She messaged him, saying she would “do something stupid.” He panicked and contacted Annie, who was unable to reach Samiha on the phone. She turned to Bina.
That is when Bina called Samiha, and pleaded with her to come home. Instead, in a few hours, she would find herself at the hospital, giving the news to Samiha’s parents, who were one of the last to arrive. Samiha had died after jumping in front of the 7 train at a Jackson Heights subway stop.
In her years living at Bina’s house, Samiha would miss her mother, who continued to live with her father in a different section of Queens. Samiha’s mother did not agree to an interview for this article.
According to Bina, Samiha’s mother moved out of her husband’s house within a few days of her daughter’s death. She had plans to file for divorce, Bina says, and now acknowledges that what happened to her daughter was the result of her husband’s abuse. They don’t know where Samiha’s father has been since they last saw him the day after his daughter’s funeral, and he could not be reached for comment.
But her realization came too late. Samiha often felt that her mother had let her down. She was not supportive of Samiha when she learned about the abuse. She didn’t let Samiha go to the police either.
Survivors in the South Asian American community often don’t report abuse by family members, as they worry that it might affect their immigration status, says Hiral Patel, a psychotherapist who until recently worked at Raksha, an organization that works with survivors of sexual abuse in Atlanta’s South Asian community.
In Samiha’s mother’s case, it was religion. Samiha’s family practices Islam.
“She felt she had a religious duty as a wife to stay by him,”
Another reason for not reporting abuse is the protection of family honor, which is considered sacred. This often discourages children — or wives — from questioning authority figures. That fear is bigger when the perpetrator is the breadwinner of the family, as it was in Samiha’s case.
“A lot of the times, children won’t report these cases because they’re afraid to bring shame to their family, or because they think they’ll dishonor their family,” Patel says.
“When you look at minority groups, there seems to be more focus on shame and maintaining traditional values. They don’t talk about sex, and this shame is more prominent in the South Asian community,” says Nagaraj, the research scientist at George Washington.
Speaking up - Zainab's story
Zainab* remembers it as the summer she began wearing pajamas to bed.
“I was 10, about to turn 11,” Zainab recalls. “I remember because it was right before my birthday.”
Her grandfather was visiting from Pakistan, where Zainab’s parents are from. He was staying with her family in California.
“My grandmother had just passed away,” she says. “Earlier, whenever they visited, they would sleep in my room. This time, he was alone, so he would sleep on a mattress on the floor — as he always did — in my room, and my parents never thought twice about it. Why would you?”
One night, when they all had gone to sleep, her grandfather moved from the mattress to the bed, lifted her nightdress, and began kissing her.
Please continue reading this story at: The Lily.