Sexual abuse victims should dress modestly – but not Muslim women

The idea of modest dressing and modest clothing has recently come to light in many ways. In the past, few years modest dressing has been associated with Muslim women in the media. Even less surprisingly this term has been purposely misconstrued in the West often aligning modest dressing with oppression of Muslim women. Though, if you ask many Muslim women they would tell you their interpretation of modest dressing doesn’t oppress them. For many of us this is a choice we make for our own bodies and for the most part we are stigmatised for this. We are told we have been indoctrinated by our religion and culture. As a Muslim woman who observes dressing modestly, I dress for myself and am often baffled by the faux concern of others who believe my choice is oppressive.

However, now this term is taking a new turn in highlighting the absolute hypocrisy of the Western world and its obsession with controlling women’s bodies, when it claims it would like to empower them. With sexual abuse allegation one after another coming out, men are scrambling to think of excuses as to why women are subject to sexual abuse and perverse behaviour from men every day. And guess what? They are still blaming women. So, if I hear the ‘women should dress modestly’ argument in regards to women being sexually assaulted one more time I’m going to assume the person speaking is an abuser. It’s mind blowing that when modesty is talked about in regards to Muslim women we become oppressed but for sexual abuse victims the idea of dressing modestly is a solution to not being sexually abused. The hypocrisy in this line of thinking is evident to anyone who is able to breathe and read. The concern for my oppression when I dress modestly isn’t real. The concern for the sexual abuse victims isn’t real either. Much of the narrative built around women is about control. Who is controlling our bodies? What’s okay to do to our bodies and what isn’t? This is often decided by those who aren’t women.

The line for acceptable behaviour towards women is constantly being moved to adjust to the despicable actions of men. We are told Muslim women are oppressed by modest clothing so let’s pull off their hijabs and campaign against burkinis’ but then women who are sexually abused are told they should dress modestly to prevent this perverse behaviour. Men are never wrong because they keep shifting the rules and refusing to take any responsibility for their actions. The deflection of responsibility has long since been the reason for the oppressions of many women in our society and I’m tired of it.

We need to hold every single man accountable. For the benefit of us all I would like to make a few things clear. Just because someone observes being ‘modest’ doesn’t mean they won’t be sexually abused and if you are looking for that loop hole then maybe you are looking to be an abuser. There is never going to be an okay excuse to sexually abuse someone. 

For those of you who believe dressing modestly deters predatory behaviour from men or sexual abuse is it possible you are excluding women who do dress modestly because in your mind only a beautiful woman who is dressed in a ‘revealing’ way can be subject to abuse? That is flawed thinking. Sexual abusers and victims of sexual abuse come in all shapes and sizes. There isn’t one type of person who is an abuser or a victim. You should make sure to understand this.

The idea that those who observe modest dress can’t be victims of sexual abuse is disturbing as it completely eradicates the space for those who observe modest dressing and have been sexually abused to come forward and feel that they can be part of the narrative to hold their abusers to account. This line of thinking creates barriers and excuses to empower predatory men who know they are doing wrong. The way a woman is dressed doesn’t and shouldn’t determine whether a man sexually abuses her or not.

See my original thread on this topic here.

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