How cultural stigmas can affect reporting of sex abuse

Why Cultural Taboos About Sexual Abuse Hurt Victims   

I read with great interest earlier this week the story of  Ruzwana Bashir, an educated and accomplished  British-Pakistani woman who is the co-founder of peek.com http://www.peek.com/. Ms. Bashir, an Oxford and Harvard educated entrepreneur, recounts her story of childhood sexual abuse and the cultural obstacles and pressures from her own family when, as an adult, she was able gather the internal strength and fortitude to return to her childhood community, in Skipton, U.K to report and prosecute her abuser. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/29/-sp-untold-story-culture-of-shame-ruzwana-bashir.

Ruzwana’ s fight for justice for herself and other victims as well as  to protect other girls from meeting the same fate is truly inspiring. It shows one person can make a difference. But it also shows how the crime of child abuse thrives in secrecy and darkness. As Ms. Bashir recounts, when she finally disclosed her abuse, her own mother begged her not to go to the police because of the “shame” it would bring to the family.  Keeping quiet about these crimes was more important in the familial and cultural context than prosecuting the offender.

As Ms. Bashir identifies sexual abuse is  “systemically under-reported among Asian girls due to deeply entrenched cultural taboos – obscuring the reality that there is a similarly rampant problem of minority girls being abused by members of their own community.”  Cultural shunning is a powerful tool used to silence victims, allowing child molesters to continue to abuse more children

During her quest to bring her perpetrator to justice, Ms. Bashir learned this hard fact that many survivors of sexual assault know all too well, other victims  refuse to testify against the perpetrator  because of the “indelible stigma” it would bring.  Further, even though the larger community is aware or should have been aware of multiple red flags and rumours surrounding a perpetrator they choose to ignore victim outcries and remain silent. They simply don’t want to risk being ostracized by the community. Education, awareness and understanding is key to breaking these cultural taboos.

Ms. Bashir’s prosecution of  her abuser with the help of other women who came forward following her report  resulted in an eight year sentence. Unfortunately, Ms. Bashir reports even after this conviction victims who remained in Skipton  were shunned by the community.

 

The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt stands ready to help you with your legal needs. If you or your child was sexually assaulted, our law firm can help you understand your legal rights.  For almost twenty years, we have exclusively represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions, including, religious organizations, schools, youth camps, daycares, scouting and the like. You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website :  https://tkmlawfirm.com/.

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