“I want to challenge the phrase “married off.” Don’t you think it’s euphemistic? These girls have been violently abducted, and these “marriages” are actually rapes and imprisonments.” – A comment by ‘Perpetual Dawn’ on the New York Times’ Editorial of May 7, 2014 titled “Nigeria’s Stolen Girls”
While still anticipating that the girls are rescued, there have been an ongoing discussion on the effect such daring abduction would have on the nation’s security and more pertinently, the effect of weeks of forced sheltering under the terrorists’ roof. We, at STER Initiative, are concerned about the impact this would have on the girls. That is, the mental and physical health of these girls in captivity and the aftermath that lies within (we harbor utmost hope that they will come back to their families safely).
At STER Initiative, we have joined our voices with million others around the world in asking the Nigerian government to do everything possible in bringing these girls home; we are also going further to appeal to well-meaning individuals who despite being optimists are also realists, to support efforts to rehabilitate these girls and their families when they get back.
As it stands, these girls are exposed to several dehumanizing conditions which prompt us to ask: How do they live? Are they being fed? Under what hygienic conditions does Boko Haram subject these girls? Are they being abused sexually? Already, the prevalent danger which many of us tried to cloud our minds to surfaced when after few days 34 girls escaped. Recounting her ordeal an escapee said she was raped 6times everyday. Clearly this gives us an insight into what the remaining girls are faced with. These girls are likely to be raped and sexually assaulted in the worst possible manner, imagining the horror is in itself mind boggling. However, the range of rape and sexual violence has become apparent in the light of recent threats by the leader of the sect to sell them off as sex slaves.
Rape has long been perpetrated during war and used strategically, to humiliate, demoralize, dehumanize and to terrorise. It is considered as the “spoils” of war. These spoils are hidden horrors of war and the damage it wreaks ruins lives. Today, It has now become an ugly and defining feature of terrorism.
From all indication, it is obvious that the primary target here is to inflict trauma and through this to destroy family ties and group solidarity. However, It is crucial to examine what sort of trauma these girls will be going through and the aftermath.
There are several physical, psychological and sociological effects of rape, and in this case, in conjunction with forced abduction and the probability of being sold off as a sex slave. Wikipedia highlights several physical effects of rape to include (not necessarily limited to):
· Vaginal or anal bleeding or infection
· Hypoactive sexual desire disorder
· Vaginitis or vaginal inflammation
· Dyspareunia — painful sexual intercourse
· Vaginismus — a condition affecting a woman’s ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration
· Chronic pelvic pain
It also references some psychological effects of rape, from self-blame to suicide and shame. Victim blaming/shaming, secondary victimization and implied consent are some of the sociological effects that results from rape. Self-Blame / Shame which “June Tangney”, a leading researcher, has listed five ways it could be destructive can be a major fallout from the Chibok kidnapping while, depending on where they live and reintegrate into the society, secondary victimization might occur:
· lack of motivation to seek care;
· lack of empathy;
· cutting themselves off from other people;
Let’s not forget stigmatization by their communities. The physical, pyschological and sociological toll can be beyond devastating.
Under any circumstance, rape is a brutal, dehumanizing attack. Rape of these girls take on the most horrendous aspects of this crime because they are likely to be raped by multiple men using their bodies and, at times, gun barrels or other objects to penetrate them. In this case rape takes on a different character: it has now become a cheap weapon of terrorism.
It is important for all caregivers, parents, guardians and organizations involved in this #BringBackOurGirls campaign to ensure the government take on active steps to bring the girls back safely. Also place on their agenda how to help the girls get proper care and support, prompt and effective reparation to usher them away from the torrid reality they have been made to face in captivity. For now everyone must participate in this campaign. All you need is a voice and a conscience. Which is not too much to ask for.
We are their voices and we need to grow louder. They’ve been forced to silence but not us and it doesn’t hinder us. We need to continue speaking out for them until they are rescued. Also, we need a society that can support these girls and their families. Remember our voices will also encourage and give strenght to those on the rescue mission.
You can speak out against these outrages in a number of ways: organize peaceful protests in your community, write to your newspaper, blog or tweet. The campaign’s website offers an action kit with information and sample posts. Follow @BBOG_Nigeria on Twitter and adopt the campaign’s logo as your profile picture. You can also follow @StandtoEndRape to start a conversation/share your thoughts with us.
Don’t keep mute…they are your sisters and daughters. There is strength in numbers and power in our voices.
By Debo Adejugbe & Abimbola Abiola for Stand To End Rape (STER) Initiative