by Nura Ahmed
Rahma Rashid started the Muslimahs Against Abuse Center (MAAC) because she knew how hard it was for women in her community to find what they needed when dealing with domestic violence.
At the age of 8, Rashid migrated from Somalia when war broke out in 1998. Growing up, she moved several times throughout the U.S., then in 2011, fleeing an abusive relationship, she settled in Seattle.
After 7 years of raising her children, Rashid enrolled at Central Washington University to receive her Bachelor of Arts in elementary school education when she was 28 years old, only to graduate amid the pandemic. She wanted to give back to her community and combine her teaching experience in some way, so after realizing how difficult it had been for her to get the help she needed to heal after leaving her abusive relationship, Rashid founded MAAC in 2020. She decided to make it her mission to make sure that not one other woman experienced what she had. Rashid is now the executive director of MAAC and pursuing her master’s in nonprofit organization.
In the beginning, Rashid struggled to get the funding and support that she needed to make her vision come to life. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 40% of Black women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. The stigma around abuse contributes to the reason why many survivors are afraid to come forward: “Oftentimes sisters are ignored. Especially Black women,” Rashid said.
Rashid also believes this stigma contributed to the lack of immediate funding or community support for MAAC. “The narrative is that women should stay silent when it comes to our experiences,” she said. “Abuse was just something that no one wants to talk about.”
But she pushed forward regardless and relied on volunteer workers to support the organization until she could get more funding. As more people saw what Rashid was doing and came to her for help in their times of need, MAAC’s reputation grew. The continuous support Rashid received from her clients and all the positive reinforcement that she received from people who saw themselves in her inspired her to keep going. People felt seen through Rashid and her mission, and that was enough for her.
“I knew that I was once a sister who was in need and hearing all of my clients continue to make dua [prayer] for me meant everything,” Rashid said.
Furthermore, Rashid’s Islamic beliefs continued to give her hope that she was on the right path. Muslims are encouraged every day to stand against any type of oppression. “Domestic violence and abuse is a form of oppression,” she said. “By standing against oppression and standing up for survivors, you could save a life.”
As MAAC has grown and received funding through grants from the City of Seattle and direct fundraising from supporters in the community, they have been able to help more women in need. Every program they’ve created and client they’ve helped has created a kind of sisterhood.
A networking event they hosted in mid-December illuminated the work for Rashid. “The community coming together was so beautiful,” she said.
Though it is a small organization, with only three paid staff members, MAAC’s primary focus is to educate and empower women and young girls. They provide services that are culturally relevant and fit the individual needs of their clients. They want to combat the trauma, trials, and oppressive conditions their clients are facing by providing safe spaces for them to come to and serving as a resource hub.
“Before opening MAAC, [Rashid] spent years leading our community and helping us heal,” said Ahlaam Ibraahim, one of the founding board members of MAAC. “When she called me and told me her vision for MAAC, it was exactly what our community needed. The first year of building MAAC wasn’t easy. As a board member, there have been many times where I felt so disheartened and sad, but Rahma always gave us that hope! She’s an amazing soul and the [kind of] leader we need more of.”
The work Rashid does is not easy, but she knows that it is necessary. Sharing her story with others in similar situations has helped her in her own path toward healing, and in being unafraid to speak out loud about abuse. “[There’s an] idea that sharing your story is a form of weakness, when in reality sharing your story is a sign of strength,” she said.
Nura Ahmed is an organizer, writer, and artist based in Seattle and South King County.
📸 Featured Image: Rahma Rashid is the executive director of the Muslimahs Against Abuse Center (MAAC). Photo courtesy of MAAC.
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