Recently the Facebook campaigns for Marta Deborah Dalelv has caught my attention, bringing to light the persecution that millions of rape victims go through every day, particularly in Islamic countries. Marte is a 24-year-old Norwegian woman who was raped during a trip to Dubai. When she went to the police, she was put on trial and sentenced to 16 months in prison for having sex outside of marriage. Yes, you read that right.
I have written before about my Middle Eastern heritage and the psychological torment it caused me. I have also touched upon the fact that, compared to women in the Middle East, I live a pretty privileged life. I have never lived in an Islamic country, thus I have never experienced the everyday struggles of Arab women and female tourists in that region. But of course, that doesn’t make me immune to the rage, horror, and feeling of helplessness I experience when I see a victimized woman being persecuted.
Over the years, part of my therapy has been acknowledging that I obsess over injustices in the world and end up neglecting myself. I have been attending therapy groups for Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT), which has taught me to practice mindfulness, be aware of and responsive to my surroundings, and cultivate peace of mind. It has also involved admitting that I obsess over global issues to distract himself from my own personal and mental health issues.
I have come to believe that a happy medium exists between wallowing in my own problems and obsessing over human rights abuses to an unhealthy degree. The way I’ve found this medium is by 1) taking stock of my privilege as an Arab-American woman and 2) being grateful for and taking advantage of said privileges.
By assembling this list, I learned how to consider myself lucky, rather than just be angry and frustrated. It brings the focus back to myself and helps grant me peace of mind.
- allowed to vote
- allowed to drive
- free to get an education
- free to pursue an career in the field of my choosing
- free to choose my own significant other without fear of being honor-killed by my father, uncle, or brother
- not expected to marry young, serve a man from the kitchen, and bear sons for him
- free to take birth control and decide when/if I have children
- go out in public without being supervised by a male member of my family
- go out in public without covering my head to conform to some outdated notion of female modesty
- live on my own, without the help of a man, and not be branded a prostitute
If I were raped…
- I would not be obligated to marry the man
- I would not be reprimanded for bringing shame upon the family
- I would be given medical aid for my physical and mental condition
Needless to say I have much to be grateful for. Of course, this doesn’t make my depression, trauma, and other problems go away. But it puts things in perspective for me.
If you make it a priority to be aware of human rights violations on a national or global scale, my advice is this: don’t be so consumed with righting wrongs that you lose sight of your own life and neglect to take stock of your privileges. Balance your sense of justice with a sense of self, and realize that appreciation for what you have is more constructive than any righteous fury you may feel.
I urge anyone and everyone to join the campaign to release Marte. As Audre Lord once said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
– Sarah Nour