Last Fall, I was talking to Nicole Lynn (Perry) Ó Catháin. You may remember Nicole from The Feminist Financial Handbook. So many readers became invested in these women’s stories, and Nicole had the phenomenal idea to do a series catching up with them and what their lives look like five years later. This is that series.
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If you haven’t read The Feminist Financial Handbook yet, buy it here so you can get these women’s backstories!
This week we’re talking to Nour Naas, who discussed domestic violence and money in the book.
Nour! I am so happy to have this opportunity to sit down with you again. The last time we talked, you were in California, still in school.
I’ve been following you on Instagram and I’ve caught glimpses all your moving journeys in the time since. Where have your journeys since 2018 brought you today?
Definitely! When we last spoke, I was just finishing up community college. I graduated in December and applied for university to attend in Fall 2019. So I had a huge gap of time where I wasn’t going to be in school — from December 2018 to August 2019.
In that time, I ended up going to Libya for six months to visit my extended family. The trip was pretty crazy. Unfortunately since the Libyan revolution in 2011, Libya has been incredibly unstable, and another civil war broke out while I was there, in April 2019.
But I’m really grateful that I got to go. It was my first time going back since my mother was killed, so that added a lot of emotions to my trip. And though I don’t believe in closure, I feel like going to Libya brought me as close to the concept of it as I probably could ever get over my mother’s death.
After I came back from Libya, I attended CSU East Bay and completed my sociology degree. I graduated in December 2020. Shortly thereafter, I worked for the county as a health insurance eligibility worker.
I just left my job and California altogether in July/August 2022 since I ended up getting married. I can’t express how much growth has happened within me since we spoke in 2018. I wasn’t even interested in marriage at that time, and couldn’t see myself ever pursuing it. I still had so much fear and trauma around marriage since I grew up witnessing my mother suffer in her own.
I’m just really grateful for opening up my heart to marriage despite how I’ve felt about it for most of my life.
Congratulations! While I am deeply saddened to hear of the ongoing strife in Libya, those are all monumental developments in your personal life.
I know I’ve personally heard from readers who have felt seen and not alone for the first time after reading your story. You’ve done so much work in this space that I’m sure you must hear that all the time.
Thank you so much. Hearing from readers about how my story resonates with them is truly the best part of sharing my writing. And I almost feel disappointment in myself for saying this, but in the last year or so especially, I feel like my goals and pursuits have completely shifted when it comes to domestic violence work.
When we last spoke, I was volunteering and/or working at multiple shelters, doing community outreach, etc. But recently, I feel my heart isn’t in it anymore.
That’s not to say that domestic violence work isn’t important to me, but more to say that I don’t know if I have the capacity to engage in it like I once did.
I actually recently applied for a position at a domestic violence shelter, kind of on a whim, and they immediately got back to me to set up an interview. But close to the interview, I just decided to cancel. I’m still trying to figure out what’s changed in me that makes me not want to do the work I used to often do.
I’m also trying to figure out in what capacity I would feel comfortable engaging in domestic violence work. But for now, I wouldn’t say I’m doing any of the work, except through maybe writing about it. Still in the process of finding out what I can handle at this point.
That’s more than fair. You’ve been through a lot, and while it’s great to help others directly, it shouldn’t be all on you to ‘fix’ this monumental issue. I hope that feeling of disappointment won’t follow you for too much longer, and that you’re able to pursue all the diverse goals and achievements you set for yourself in other fields.
Given this information, I hope my next questions aren’t too intrusive. Cut me off if they are.
Over the past five years, have there been any positive or negative developments in how safe it is for women to come forward? Particularly for Muslim women since they face the most barriers?
I’m not sure about specific developments that have occurred, but I will say that ever since 2018, when I first got my essay published about the intersection of domestic violence and Islamophobia, I’ve seen increased discourse around this very same topic, and that’s been really encouraging.
I believe there is a lot more of an awareness around domestic violence in general, how it doesn’t just manifest physically, how it can be more difficult to identify it.
I remember one of my friends who divorced her husband years ago. We met up at a cafe shortly after their separation, and she gave me a laundry list of all the things he did in their marriage, but she prefaced the whole thing by saying that he never abused her.
But toward the end of our conversation, it seemed that she had her own a-ha moment and said, “Wow. It was abuse.”
And it made me realize that many people don’t understand that abuse can actually be very stealthy and difficult to see, even — and perhaps especially — to the one who is being abused.
That’s too real! Often we don’t realize how unhealthy things are until we open up about our private experiences.
Once we do realize it, one of the most common questions asked on this topic is where do I get financial help to leave a bad situation? From what I can see, there aren’t a whole lot of resources out there. Do you have any recommendations for where people could look?
Unfortunately I’m not quite sure either. The only thing I can think of is to actually contact local domestic violence shelters and see what kind of support they can offer.
It’s sad that there aren’t nearly enough safety nets in place for victims of domestic violence to be able to leave their abusers. I find that most people must depend on community support — whether that’s through fundraising for the victim or giving them a place to stay.
I would really urge everyone reading this to support domestic violence victims in whatever way you can.
Even if it’s not financially, maybe you can provide them with information on local resources, or maybe you have enough space, money, and energy to take in a friend who is being abused, maybe you’re well-versed on the topic of financial literacy and you can conduct workshops in your community or local domestic violence shelters to teach others about it, etc.
Cash is extremely important in order to be able to leave an abusive situation, but if it’s something that cannot be offered, not all hope is lost.
My mother was actually supposed to move in with one of her friends at the end of the month in which she was murdered. This friend of hers isn’t rich, but she had space, and my mom had some income to help carry her weight.
I think, more important than money being offered to victims, is them having other forms of concrete support — especially friends who believe them, support them in whatever way they can, and understand the severity of their situation.
As you’ve been working your way through these past five years, have you noticed any impacts on your finances?
Not necessarily impacts on my finances, but I certainly have learned a lot. As a Muslim, paying or garnering interest is a huge sin, so I’ve always only kept a debit card/checking account for myself.
And fortunately because of where I rented for the last several years, I never had to think or even knew about the process of getting my credit checked or possibly being refused a place to live because of it.
However, I recently have found myself in a situation where my credit is now crucial to securing various things like a place to live, etc. And because of this situation, as I kept getting denied by apartments, I found out that my credit was extremely low — even though I’ve never had a credit card!
I was so confused for so long, so it’s been a bit of a learning curve. I’ve found a way to maneuver having a credit card without the whole garnering or paying of interest, so I’m slowly working on building my credit back up.
This situation has taught me how vital financial literacy is. There is a lot I don’t know, a lot that my past situation sheltered me from ever having to find out about money, credit, etc. So at my big age of 28, I’m starting to learn what I hope others — especially women — can learn far earlier in life.
So much of our self-sufficiency and independence depends on understanding all aspects of finances. I used to think it was such a boring topic. It genuinely was something I never cared much about.
If I had enough to pay rent, to eat, and to live decently, I was content.
If I needed more money, I just asked for more hours or got a second, or sometimes third, job.
But it took me a long time to understand that this isn’t ideal, that there are other, smarter ways to garner income. So I’m still in the process of figuring out what works for me.
I would definitely recommend everyone take a financial literacy course.
I know IPV is a topic we honed in on in the book, and so that’s what we’re talking about today.
But I want to take a second and acknowledge that while our traumas will always be a part of us, we are more than our trauma, too.
So I just want to ask – how is the whole Nour doing?
Thank you so much for this question. This is something I’ve been trying to focus on more myself lately: positive and exciting things.
As mentioned, I did receive my bachelor’s, so that did bring some relief and opened up a bit more employment opportunities. I also got married less than one year ago.
However, all these life events in the last couple of years really ended up putting a pause on my writing and other pursuits. But this year, as I’m more settled into my life and emotions, I really hope to get back to writing in particular.
So much of my writing in the past has been focused on my mother in the context of her abuse, and I had found it difficult to write about my positive memories of her, even though it was something I desperately wanted at the time.
But I realized that I simply wasn’t ready then, that I wasn’t as far along in my healing as I needed to be in order to be able to do so. But I know that I’m ready now, so I’m really excited to start putting out those positive stories and thoughts from my life.
And we are so excited to read them! Do you have any recent or upcoming or recently released projects you want to let readers know about?
I hope to write on more varied topics this year. I recently got an essay published on Amaliah about my fear of getting married, and how I overcame that.
If you look at my essays from before, they were all about domestic violence without exception. I don’t fault myself for that though. I think my writing is a reflection of the state of my heart. Back then, I was so consumed by my grief that I couldn’t think about anything else.
But these days, I feel so much more calm. Besides upcoming essays I hope to have published, I’ve been working on a memoir. I don’t see that coming out for at least a couple of years from now, but it’s something I’m extremely excited about, and I hope it’s something that will resonate with many others.
Nour is such a talented writer, so be sure to keep an eye out for her future work!
And thank you so much to Nour for taking the time to talk to us about such a sensitive topic that affects so many. Both for doing so five years ago, and for revisiting it today.