Nabila's Voice: An Story of Child Abuse that Becomes a Light of Hope
One of the most unrepresented groups in media are muslim women. In my experience, our voice lacks and is replaced for a lots of chiclés and stereotypes that claim to represent us but only get in silence our own voice.
Everytime I see a news about muslim women, is about issues related to religion, to veil, to present us like passive a lack of agency on ouserlves women in need of super heroes coming from first world to save us. The question for me is not what non muslims should recognize on muslim women in matter related to gender but viceversa: What do muslim women bring to the table to change the conversation and boost the rising of issues that affect all women and girls?
Nabila's story is a real one, that sadly happen too much often and too much often too remain in silence. Brutal, her book on her experience with sexual child abuse is part of the answer. In medias full of stereotypes and unidimensional descriptions about people, often we forget that behind any particularities related to race, religion and costume, there are women. Women with a voice, speaking up and contributing to open spaces to talk and provide support to others.
Nabila prove us that speak up can be a trigger to further changes. She went from being a victim to being a referent for other women and an advisor and guidance for parents and children about sexual child abuse. Her courage in speak, bring awareness about a topic the most of the time people keep in silence is making a change.
Since I believe in the power of each of one us to speak for her/himself, I would like Nabila Sharma tell you about herself and the reason behind this book:
Brutal: The Story of Nabila
My Pen name is Nabila Sharma and I am a Muslim. I am 36 years old and come from the Midlands,im happily engaged to a wonderful man who I plan to marry next year,I work in the film/TV industry and also work with children.
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 any more. 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.
Now after 26 years 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.
Brutal is my first book, a brilliant ghost writer helped me put my words onto paper and with the help of Harpercollins “Brutal” was released April of this year followed by release in Ireland. Australia,Canada and New Zealand.
The book is now being Translated and released in the following countries French,Indonesia,Estonia,Holland and the Czech Republic.
For Many years I have read books on other survivors, finding comfort in their stories and being reassured that I was not alone or what I was going through was normal. I searched for a book that would help me come to terms with the abuse I suffered but found none.
It was due to the lack of Muslims coming forward that I decided that my story had to be told to help others like me.
Since “Brutal” has been released many people have come forward to speak to me.(via Facebook and Twitter) Or My Dear Nabila Problem Page.
I also wrote this book to highlight changes that must be done in the system in regard to people working with children.
The Police are involved in my case and it is ongoing so another book will be released when justice is final done.
I am also in the process of writing a children’s book so for any child out there who like me cannot speak out or understand what is going on by reading my book may find that voice to shout out and tell someone.
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, Morrison’s, and Waterstones.
I can be contacted through facebook or twitter or my Dear Nabila Problem Page 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.