After years of crushing silence, four Muslim-American women are opening up about the sexual abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of someone they trusted.
The women are featured in filmmaker Nadya Ali’s upcoming documentary “Breaking Silence,” talking for the first time on camera about the painful childhood experiences they’ve kept hidden for years.
“I stayed silent for 16 years and it’s very simple why I didn’t talk about it,” said one survivor. “Because we don’t talk about sex in a Muslim, desi household. And if they do, it’s always ‘Don’t have sex. This is haram.’”
Ali, 23, was inspired to create the film after a close family friend revealed that she had been sexually assaulted by an uncle as a child. Over the course of the next few years, Ali said she found out that several more young girls were assaulted by the same family member. The man was never brought to justice.
In fact, Ali says, the perpetrators behind all four of her interviewee’s assaults were never punished for their crimes.
“The women felt their family wouldn’t believe them, or would say they were lying, or had misconstrued what happened because they were children,” Ali told the Huffington Post. “It’s that sort of culture of impunity that really perpetuates the problem.”
One of the goals of the film is to distinguish between between culture and religion. Ali chose to focus on Muslim women because that is the community that she grew up in. However, she emphasized that the problem is universal.
“It’s not Islam that causes people to act like this,” Ali said, pointing out how the prophet Muhammad had spoken out against such crimes. “I hope that the film can help people not familiar with our religion to understand that.”
The women featured in "Breaking Silence" have all agreed to appear on camera and reveal their names. It's a decision that they are hoping their families will accept.
"A lot of parents don't realize how often this happens, or ignore it when it does," Ali said. "The very first step in changing the dialogue around sexual assault is to start talking about it."
Ali and her team are currently campaigning on Kickstarter to help fund post production for their film. It is slated to premiere in January 2015.