HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA -- A Hollywood mother burned her teenage daughter with a hot knife to punish her for talking to a boy she met online, an act that defied her parents' wishes for her to marry a cousin, according to authorities.
The 17-year-old showed detectives three burn marks on her arms, saying they were placed there in act of "honor violence" by her mother for betraying the family's culture and religion, according to a police report.
The mother, Sahar Thabit, 35, born in Yemen, was arrested Friday and is facing three counts of child abuse after the family learned about the Internet friendship, police said.
Victim advocates say that "honor violence," in which a woman is victimized for having shamed or violated cultural or religious norms, particularly those of Middle Eastern countries, is gaining attention in the United States as more Middle Eastern families move here and young women immerse themselves in Western culture.
School officials were alerted to the burns by the teenager's classmate, who told them the parents became enraged because the girl, who the Sun Sentinel is not naming, was supposed to have been in an arranged marriage with a cousin.
Hollywood Police said the girl was burned in the first or second week of January. A school vice principal contacted police on Jan. 13. The school's name was redacted from the police report.
The teen told detectives that her mother put a knife on a stove and heated the metal. She then placed the knife on the girl's arms, police said. She was burned twice on her left forearm and once on her upper right arm, police said. The girl told authorities both her parents knew of the incident.
The girl's father, who was not identified, initially told police that the girl accidentally burned herself on the stove, according to the report. When a detective noted there were three similar burns, the father reportedly asked to speak to a lawyer.
Police did not interview the mother because she speaks only Arabic, Detective Chris Christianson wrote in his report. A man who answered the phone at the family's West Hollywood house Monday said only that "everything is fine" and declined to comment further without a lawyer.
The girl's friend told police that the teen had tried to commit suicide over the incident. The teen is reportedly now living with family friends, but details were not immediately available.
Somy Ali, who runs South Florida-based No More Tears, said she met with the teenager about a month ago in hopes of helping her. Her group helps immigrants brought to the United States through arranged marriages and often are victims of domestic or honor violence.
Ali said she lost contact with the girl after their initial consultation.
"When I spoke to her, she was terrified and tried to insist her parents didn't do it," Ali said Monday. "She opened up a little, but then became reluctant because she thought I was working with the detectives."
Ali, who said she was disowned by her father at a young age, said some of the victims she has helped over the years include women from different religions and countries, mostly from the Middle East.
"It is a very image-based culture and you are seen as dishonoring the family for things like having premarital sex or having a boyfriend," Ali said. "Oftentimes it's the brother who goes as far as killing the woman to save face on behalf of the family."
The police report did not identify the family's religion. Lenore Walker, a Nova Southeastern psychology professor and domestic violence expert, said honor violence is not specific to any one religion, and described it mostly as a cultural issue. (Continue reading at Huffington Post.)
***UPDATE*** Prepare to be shocked. CBS News and Fox News are reporting that the Thabit family is devoutly Muslim! How did other news agencies and police miss this important fact? If I didn't know better (which I don't), I might think that the media are so terrified of Islam that they will gladly conceal Islamic violence.