Imagine waking up, getting dressed, having your breakfast, grabbing your books and meeting up with your friends as you walk through the door of the classroom. You are about to take your final exams. It’s an ordinary day. Everyone finds a seat, the teacher enters the room and you and the other girls stand up out of respect. The teacher indicates that everyone should sit down and she begins to give instructions. You pay close attention. You are a teenager and your family expects you to do well on the examination, and to do fine things with the education you have been receiving. You have dreams of becoming a teacher, or maybe a nurse. You have worked hard to prove that you are as capable as any one else in the community.
Suddenly the door opens and men carrying weapons and dressed in soldier uniforms and bizarre outfits enter the room. They order everyone to leave the school. You are confused, a little scared, but you push the feeling away and you do as you are told. Everyone is instructed to climb onto the back of trucks standing in the yard outside the school, hundreds of you, all girls. Why are we leaving the school? They wave you along, giving an explanation for moving everyone to another location but something doesn’t feel right. Some of the girls start to run. A few get away but most are caught. You start to go numb.
On this day, April 14, life for the hundreds of girls who were abducted from a school in Chibok town, in Borno state, Nigeria, will never be the same. Later the same group who call themselves, Boko Haram, kidnaps another eight girls. They are a violent, fanatical, group of Islamic extremists, bandits and renegades. The leader takes responsibility for the kidnapping and he vows to continue abducting girls, making them into slaves, sex slaves, because Boko Haram is against Western education. They have declared that Western education is a sin and that’s why they can make schoolgirls, sex slaves.
Boko Haram has been terrorizing Borno state, kidnapping and killing school children, for many years, but this may be the largest number of girls abducted, or maybe not. Earlier this year more than 50 teenage boys were slaughtered – some burned alive – at a government school in the same area, northeast Nigeria. The story came out to a few in the West and in one day went away as many do when they are about the Northern, Islamic part of Nigeria.
What will happen to these girls? Will the leader make good and sell them for $12.00?
The answer is, yes. No doubt he already has. He has been doing this for years.
Sex trafficking is a difficult subject for most people to wrap their heads around even when it makes front-page news. You may ask, “How is it that in the 21st century, one person can so blatantly sell another human being?” A better question is, “Who are the buyers?” and “What are they buying them for?” “What really happens when one person has absolute power over another person who they have bought?” There is something mind boggling about the idea that there is actually a market for the sale of human beings; that one day you are a human being and the next day you are a commodity to be used for whatever purpose the buyer pleases to use you. This is devastating to a girl who wakes up one day as a person, with a family, a community, an identity and by nightfall is made into something less than human. The damage to the mind is irrevocable. Even if by some miracle some of these girls are found and brought home, the world will continue to feel unsafe to them, and the nightmare will continue when they are awake and especially when they try to sleep, which is not possible even when someone holds them to comfort them because the Boko Haram are out there, planning their next abduction and murders. There is no safe haven. She and all of her friends from school are now trapped in an unsafe world even when they are found. They have experienced hours, and weeks and months of dehumanization. They are traumatized.
Without help, and support, and resources to try to put the pieces of a fractured life back together, these Nigerian girls will continue to relive the pain, confusion and numbing fear as if it happened, yesterday, year after year after year. They will need to be cared for in one way or another for the rest of their lives. When people really begin to understand what happens when you have to survive in spite of what is being done to you, or what you are forced to do, that your mind is not your own; until people become conscious of the fact that 29.8 million of people are enslaved today, not only in parts of Africa, but in the West, that many of them live in our communities, this lack of awareness will continue to give the process it’s cover and every day girls and women and boys will be abducted, and will remain among the missing in plain view.