The First and Only Muslim Domestic Violence Shelter in the Carolinas Welcomes All Faiths | DFA 90.7

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The founder of the first and only Muslim-run domestic violence shelter in the Carolinas can cite some easy-to-understand numbers.

There are 13,500 animal shelters in the United States, but only 1,887 domestic violence shelters, according to a study from Northeastern University.

Courtesy of Baitul Hemaya Hut

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Sa’idah Sudan opened the only Muslim domestic violence shelter in the Carolinas after being unable to recognize her savagely beaten friend in a hospital emergency room.

Sa’idah Sudan opened the Charlotte shelter in October 2019 after an experience in an emergency room at a New Jersey hospital.

“There was a Muslim woman who entered the emergency room,” Sudan said. “I didn’t recognize her because of the violence she suffered. But she knew me. She was actually a friend of mine. From that point on, I was trying to figure out what I could do to help Muslim and immigrant women in terms of domestic violence.

Sudan became the first Muslim woman certified by the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, and after five years of classes, training and internships on domestic violence, she had the knowledge and confidence to open a shelter.

With the support of fundraising from Penny Appeal United States, Baitul Hemaya Domestic Violence Shelter opened in October 2019 in Charlotte, focusing on Muslim women. But any woman experiencing domestic violence is welcome. Baitul Hemaya means “house of protection” in Arabic.

Painful statistics on domestic violence

One in four women were victims of severe domestic violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Peaceful Families Project statistics show that 31% of American Muslims have experienced abuse in an intimate relationship. Hadia Mubarak, assistant professor of religion at Queens University Charlotte, explained that one of the key goals of the Peaceful Families Project is to educate religious people about domestic violence.

In addition to food and accommodation, staff at the Baitul Hemaya shelter provide training, counseling, protective and psychiatric services to women.

“The shelter is an organization run by Muslims, but anyone and anyone is allowed to come here,” Sudan said. “If you’ve been abused or been a victim, we’re here to help. The purpose behind the shelter is to make life easier for Muslim and immigrant women who are stagnant. They don’t know where to go. The refuge is equipped with prayer rugs, Koran that women can read.

The house has three bedrooms, a disabled-accessible bathroom, a kitchen, a living room and a conference room. Family members take turns cooking and cleaning. The conference room accommodates group sessions and home meetings. Women take classes in financial education and drug addiction, individual advocacy, life skills, arts and crafts, crochet. Yoga instructors give classes. A Charlotte mosque donated furniture and clothing.

“This refuge brings together people of all faiths,” Sudan said. “Everyone comes together and we are one family under the shelter. I don’t care about your religion. It doesn’t matter to me. We just want to be there to help you get from place to place.

Shelter logistics

Women and families arrive at the shelter with a maximum stay of 30 days. The shelter helps women find jobs, provides bus passes to appointments, and helps find free child care.

Families at the shelter are supported with therapy services and independent living instruction.

It is not uncommon for women to return to their abuser, Sudan said. “A lot of women have never worked before and they either don’t trust themselves or are just lazy and will just come back to him because ‘I don’t want to be here.’ It’s an excuse, but for them, it is survival.

The need for more shelter

Sudan plans to open more shelters for Muslim women in areas that need capacity.

“Let me tell you something,” Sudan said. “Domestic violence shelters are very rare and very complete. COVID did not help this situation, so many women had to stay at home with the abuser, with nowhere to go during the pandemic. Almost all the shelters are full because there is always abuse.

“If it’s not child abuse, it’s elder abuse, or it’s spousal violence, or it’s intimate partner violence. The abuse never stops.

Resources on domestic violence

Baitul Hemaya Domestic Violence Shelter: 704-764-1773

Secure Alliance: 980-771-4673

Mecklenburg County Community Support Services – Prevention and Intervention Services: 704-336-3210


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