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Brutal

My name is Nabila Sharma and I am a Muslim. I was just seven years old when the imam at my local mosque began to sexually abuse me. The abuse happened on an almost daily basis and lasted for four years.

The imam was the most powerful man in our community and I was terrified of him. He told me that I was special and singled me out from the start. He ruled our mosque with an atmosphere of fear. Instead of learning the Koran as a good Muslim girl should, he gave me special tasks to do. It helped me escape my prayers but it also separated me from the other children. At first I felt special, like the teacher’s pet, but soon, the others began to resent me - I became the chosen one.

As I was always first one at the mosque, the imam suggested I start my prayers early before the others arrived. It was a ruse to get me up into his private quarters – his bedroom. No one, only the imam was allowed in there so again, I felt special. I thought I’d be safe because he was the imam, our teacher and the most important man I knew. But I was wrong - he was a paedophile. At first he showered me with compliments but these soon gave way to sexual abuse. I was too terrified and too ashamed to tell a soul.

I became obsessed with learning to tell the time. I would count down the seconds - how long I’d have to be alone with him - before the other children arrived. As the abuse progressed, I would avoid going into the mosque until the very last minute to lessen my time alone with my abuser. Sometimes I’d wait outside but I was always too worried in case someone spotted me hanging around on the street corner – it wasn’t what good Muslim girls did.

The abuse continued until I was almost twelve years old, and about to start secondary school. During this time and, in a bid to cope, I began to self-harm. In particular, I would try to disfigure my face. The imam always told me how pretty I was so I cut myself in the hope that if I was ugly enough, he wouldn’t like me anymore. I hoped it would make the abuse stop. I was wrong.

I suffered depression and spent many hours alone crying in my bedroom. I felt I had no one to turn to. I had no confidence and no self-esteem. He destroyed everything.

The day I left the mosque, was the day I turned my back on my religion, culture and faith. Instead, I rebelled and experimented with drink and cigarettes. My parents later found out about the abuse but turned a blind eye and refused to do anything. It made me feel worthless, as if I had shamed the family and was ‘damaged goods’.

I suffered reoccurring nightmares and remained haunted by what the imam had done to me but somehow, I managed to push it all to the back of my mind. I worried that he had gone on to abuse others and was constantly plagued with guilt. Still, I said nothing.

I left school and decided that I needed to protect other children. No one had saved me from the imam, but I could help others. I trained to become a nursery nurse and later a chaperone so that I could safeguard all children in my care. I didn’t want them to feel as frightened and vulnerable as I had.

I’m now 36 years old and, after many years of heartache, pain and subsequent counselling, I feel as though I have finally emerged from a long dark tunnel and back into the light. I have written a book, called Brutal, in the hope it gives others the courage to come forward and report such heinous crimes. My story needs to be told and people need understand that things like this can and do happen.

I’m calling for the Asian Muslim community to properly inspect their imams in the same way teachers are checked on their ability to teach children. I believe there should be fundamental changes in the way imams are employed in mosques. They should be asked to provide a complete history of their teaching qualifications and full proof of their certificates. They should also be CRB checked. I want mosques to undergo regular Ofsted inspections. These rules and regulations are in place for a reason – to help and protect our children. It is vital that we do this.

I will continue to speak out until these changes are made and my voice is heard. It is all I can do to help others.

My book Brutal is a true account of what happened to me. It’s a hard-hitting book, for which I make no apology because, only by speaking out, can we stamp out this kind of abuse. Brutal is available from Amazon, WHSmith, Morrisons, Amazon and Waterstones.

I can be contacted through facebook or twitter and via a personal website, which should be up and running soon.

If you believe a child is being abused, please contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

Thank you.

NABILA SHARMA

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

mrbeckbeck's picture

Thank you

Thank you Nabila for sharing your story here and for your courage to speak out and demand much needed changes to protect children. It's a tragedy that people who are trusted to educate and guide children, people who are in positions of authority that demand respect, abuse the power they are given. We need to protect children just like you say, with the rules and regulations that are in place... and also with a cultural perspective that teaches children to speak up and teaches adults to believe.

I look forward to the day when no child has to endure the pains you've described.

Thank you,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

nabila's picture

Thank you Scott i hope it

Thank you Scott i hope it encourages others to speack out.

Nabila x

Nabila x

Kara-Amena's picture

Best wishes

Nabila, I admire your strength and concern for others. I added your book to my wishlist on Amazon. In the U.S., many places require criminal background checks on baseball coaches, parent-chaperones and other people who have contact with children. But it's not enough. Too many people slip through the cracks. Your tragic experience proves that we need to be more vigilant about those who have unsupervised access to children. I am glad that you have emerged from the long, dark tunnel. If you haven't found your culture and faith again, I pray that you will. I applaud your efforts to educate people, to save future children from the experiences you endured and to promote the need for policy changes. I wish you the very best.

Peace and blessings,
Kara-Amena

nabila's picture

Thank you Kara-Amena Please

Thank you Kara-Amena

Please let me know your thoughts on Brutal and maybe together we can make changes.

Nabila x

Nabila x

usha kc's picture

Dear Nabila, I just admire

Dear Nabila,
I just admire you and your courage to tell the story. I will surely read ur book.

thank you for sharing.

nabila's picture

Thank you Usha please let me

Thank you Usha please let me know your thoughts.

Nabila x

Nabila x

brianna.warren's picture

Thank you.

Thank you for using your strength and courage to share your story with us, in addition to being an advocate for change in your local community. It is amazing that you are using your voice to articulate your experience in a way that can be seen and heard by influencers around the globe. I would like to hear more about how you are informing and calling the Asian Muslim community to action, and I’m also curious about the challenges you overcame as you were writing Brutal. What changes have you been witnessing -- either internally, or in your community?

Thanks again for sharing your story. I look forward to hearing more about the change you inspire.

Brianna

nabila's picture

Hello Brianna jope you are

Hello Brianna jope you are well,

Thank you for such kind words, Brutal was very hard to write but it was a story that neede to be told as a result of it i have reached so many people all over the world who have found comfort and strenght through it.

I am reaching out to people by doing many tv and radio apperances and speacking out and writing articles, it helps that Brutal is being translated into five diffrent languages it came out in France last month and will be out in Indonesia in October and Estonia,Holland and Polland in January.

Im also doing roadshows all over the country to make people aware of this subject and not to be scared to speak out. Im hoping to do a childrens book next and in talks for a drama/film of Brutal to reach out to an even wider audiance.

Im also campaigning to have all mosques OFSTEDED and alll Imam and teachers CRB checked but still a long way to go.

Thank you

Nabila

Nabila x

Savitri's picture

Thanks a lot

Dear Nabila,

It is very hard to share such an personal experience with others, but you did it so nicely and now speaking against it. This story is really a source of inspiration for all of us who undergoes some kind of sexual harassment.
Nowadays, child sexual abuse is very common topic, so I think that every parent should take initiatives to educate and prevent their children from it. They should tell their children about sexual abuse without any hesitation and also tell them that if they are victim of it, they should inform their parents or anyone who are very close to them.
I really appreciate your courage. Hope all of us have same kind of courage to stand against any kind of discrimination and domination.

Thank you very much for sharing such an awesome narrative.

nabila's picture

Hi I agree with everything

Hi

I agree with everything that you have said we need to talk to and most importantley listen to our children and educate them to say NO to anything they feel is wrong or do not like to tell someone untill someone listens.
I hope Brutal encourages many more to speak up load and clear.

Thank you

Nabila

Nabila x

Pushpa Achanta's picture

Crucial piece

Dear sister Nabila,

I applaud your courage in speaking out and commitment to ensuring that others don't experience your trauma. Thanks for sharing about your book.

You'll probably agree that abuse of power and preying on vulnerable and innocent people and especially kids are abhorrent acts perpetrated independent of race, faith, nationality, language, etc. Unfortunately, implementing the strongest legislations and penalties doesn't deter those shameless and inhuman beings. Perhaps, they wouldn't indulge in these abominable and disgusting deeds if they cared for the law or other persons.

It takes a lot to be as brave and empathetic as you are. Continue your passionate writing and relevant work - we need more like you.

Love, hugs and best wishes,
Pushpa

nabila's picture

Hello Pushpa Thank you so

Hello Pushpa

Thank you so much for your kind words, and i agree with everything you have just said i probabley wouldnt have put so poilitley,
These men need to be named and shamed.

Thank you for your support

Nabila x

Nabila x

Corine Milano's picture

Thank you, Nabila, for your

Thank you, Nabila, for your courage. By speaking out, you are letting others know that it is okay for them to speak out as well. I know this is a kind of pain that is especially difficult to reveal, and I admire your strength, resilience, and willingness to be a voice for all women and children who have been through similar abuses. Please keep sharing with the World Pulse community.

All the best,
Corine

nabila's picture

Hello Corine Thank you for

Hello Corine

Thank you for your kind words.

Nabila x

Nabila x

Lea's picture

Thank you!

Deat Nabila,
Thank you for having taken the courageous decision to step forward to tell your story. I can only imagine how painful it was to endure all those years of abuse and what a devastating impact it had on you. In spite of that, you chose to dedicate your life to speaking out against chid abuse and to demanding that those individuals who harm innocent children be held accountable for their despicable behavior. I completely agree with you that no child should ever experience the kind of abuse that you were exposed to. I really admire your determination to keep fighting for children's rights. Thank you again for telling us your story.

nabila's picture

Hello Lee Thank you for

Hello Lee

Thank you for taking the time to read my story, i hope many ,more will now speak out. Im in a happy place now.

Nabila x

Nabila x

Fardosa Muse's picture

Dear Nabil, Thank you for

Dear Nabil,
Thank you for your courage and strength for sharing this horrified abuse.Of all the people Imam shouldn't act like this.he suppose to protect not to violet innocent children under his dockets .In this world of today its very rear to see, the right person doing the right thing.i wounder what kind of a religion he is practicing , Islam religion doesn't allow any sexual contact without marriage .Heavy punishment has been prescribed for this crime. a Muslim who perpetrates this crime cannot escape punishment.

How i wish he practice what he preach .

Keep fighting for children rights !

Every One, Every Day ,Every Way, Prevent Vi0lenCE AgainST W0men On YouR Way!

nabila's picture

Hello Fardosa Thank you for

Hello Fardosa

Thank you for taking the time to read my story, i belive in karma and what goes around comes around so one day justice will be done.

Thank you for your support.

Nabila x

Nabila x

JaniceW's picture

Thank you.

Nabila, we are so honoured to have you as a member of our community. Thank you for re-opening this wound and sharing your story with us. Your story is a light of hope and courage for so many women across the world. I hope that after writing about your pain, your heart became a little lighter knowing that many will find the courage and strength from your words to speak out for themselves.

I encourage to continue sharing your story with us and I look forward to reading of the release of your children's book. Peace,
Janice

nabila's picture

Hello Janice, Thank you for

Hello Janice,

Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement.

I will continue to speak out and help others,

Nabila x

Nabila x

CHINYERE MMA OKOH's picture

strength in weakness

Hi, I thank you for telling your story. I know it's not easy and in the mist of all these, you found strength in weakness. Then tuning it positively takes extraordinary effort.
You are indeed an example. I admire you.
Thank you

nabila's picture

Hello, Thank you for your

Hello,

Thank you for your kind words, i do hope Brutal will help and encourage others to speak out.

Nabila x

Nabila x

Khadija Abdalla's picture

Thankyou Nabila

I admire your courage and thank you for giving the rest of us awareness. Its true some Imams are not to be trusted and I am also keen with my young ones. I almost became a victim but I was beaten upon refusing to adhere to this abuse and I left them to beat me up, looking back,it was really the worst memory but I moved to a boarding school and thank God it had a very little impact. But whats best is to leave the memories behind and look into the type of caretakers we keep responsible for our children.

Bint Khuwayleed

nabila's picture

Thank you

Helllo Bint

Sorry to hear of what you went through, im glad you got out of it and enjoyed the rest of your schooling.
It sounds like you are moving on with your life and putting the past behind you.
Good luck and thank you again.
Nabila x

Nabila x

bhavna's picture

Thank You.

Thank you for sharing the heart wrenching story of childhood abuse, most girls experience to their horror and keep silent imparting impunity to the perpetrators. This is a very brave account and I deeply appreciate your strength and fortitude, that you not just wrote of the account but is also ensuring, other innocent girls is not preyed upon. "Brutal" is my next reading venture. Thank you.

Respect and love
bhavna

nabila's picture

Hello Bhavna Thank you for

Hello Bhavna

Thank you for your kind words, I hope Brutal helps and encourages others to speak out, please do let me know your thoughts on Brutal.

Nabila x

Nabila x

nasreenamina's picture

Salam aleikum

My dear!! I haven't seen your history hear!! Congrats my sister. I hope I can hug you tight soon. In the meanwhile I keep collecting inspiration from you. Love

One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion

Follow me @DivinaFeminista

nabila's picture

Thank you for your constant

Thank you for your constant support love ad hugs go your way x

Nabila x

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