- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

PLANO, Texas (AP) - She had no clue what abuse meant when she came to the U.S. two years ago, suddenly a target of her new husband’s angry alcoholism.

A South Asian Muslim in her early 40s with dark skin and piercing olive eyes, she’s still shaken by the experience, recalling the horror into which she’d unwittingly stepped.

“All I knew was that .” She paused, eyes wet with tears in a quiet meeting room in Plano. “I was getting hit and getting blamed for everything.”

Eventually she would find solace in Peaceful Oasis, a shelter for Muslim women fleeing domestic violence. Though the North Texas shelter accepts clients of all faiths, it’s focused on the needs of Muslim women who want to feel comfortable following Islamic customs.

“We try to be as helpful and supportive as we can,” said Hind Jarrah, executive director of the Plano-based Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, which opened Peaceful Oasis in late 2012. “Our aim is for them to stand on their own.”

When foundation leaders asked women in the community what issues needed attention, domestic violence loomed large. More than that, women wanted a shelter with a culturally specific approach.

“When they went to mainstream shelters,” Jarrah said, “some said it was as if their identity had been stolen. They preferred to go back to their abusive husbands.”

Traditional shelters, they said, posed language barriers and were ill-equipped to meet needs such as a diet free of the pork products that Islam forbids, or a space in which to pray the five times per day that Islam calls for.

“They worried about whether it would be allowed, how it would appear,” Jarrah told The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1kyPPxz). “Would it be accepted?”

That’s how Peaceful Oasis came to be. About 80 percent of the shelter’s clients are Muslim, many of them Asian or Middle Eastern immigrants. Others come from North Texas or even other U.S. states.

For many, response to abusive situations derives from a mix of ingrained culture and religious beliefs - a pattern of behavior trickling through generations until the cycle is broken.

Those who come to Peaceful Oasis, like the Southeast Asian woman in that meeting room in Plano, are taking a step toward breaking that cycle.

The woman did not want her name, exact age or native country divulged for fear of retribution within a community that still places a stigma upon speaking publicly about such things. Only her parents back home knew anything, and when they began calling more often to check on her, her husband only resented her more. He shut her off from everyone.

“He said he was trying to save our marriage,” she said. “I was completely isolated.”

It wasn’t until the night he assaulted her in public that others found cause to intervene. Police were called.

Story Continues →