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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673

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The stolen cry

By Patricia Senteney Killian

If I could make music, there would be a lot of drums, stealthy aggressive low horns and winds for the swooping; atonal, high-pitched strings creating the screams and dusty springs of the trucks on bad roads. There would be different drums for the yelled commands and caravans rumbling into the bush. Then, the high-pitched screams again. There would be heavy minor keys for the despair, punishing loud majors for the victory, perhaps a very few, very tinny, brief twinges of guilt. What noise, what instruments, what sounds would be the music of the rapes?

If I could paint Nigeria's shame – its Guernica – the images would be of testosterone-filled AK-47 penises firing bullets and semen; breasts and vaginas in chains, school books torn and thrown into the burning schools, bodies of teachers and guards strewn about the trucks. Girls running, school clothes shredded by the brush, rape and rape and rape, beatings, rape; food prepared in the bush by stolen girls raped; ripe bellies and births. Money changing hands for some of the girls moved to other territories. Frantic parents searching, demanding action by their impotent, sleeping government.

If I could make a movie, I'd focus on three girls and their families. We'd get to know them and their aspirations, their dreams and plans and lifestyles. The attack on the school would be swift, dusty, brutal with the girls trucked off and adults dead or injured. Most of the trucks would go out into the bush to the terrorists' camp, horns honking. Other rebels would surround the trucks, shouting, laughing at the prizes brought back. Some of the trucks would cross borders to other countries where the girls would be sold to become wives. In the camp, the terrified girls are taken down from the trucks. Would there be an auction-like atmosphere with girls handed out by rank? Would they be herded into an area while their fates were discussed? The newspapers said they were forced to cook for their captors. Once separated, are the girls allowed any contact with other girls? Is friendship still possible? What about their clothes? How long do school clothes last in the bush? When do the rapes start, because you know they do? Is anyone kind? Does anyone think about what they are doing? Our three girls, different temperaments and strengths, same treatment, different results? Same ending for each? How do they survive? Do they survive? Were they sold? There will be no good endings here.

But I write. I can't sleep, so I write. I can hear the stolen cry. Screams when their school was first invaded and they were rounded up. Sobbing in the trucks, terrified of the unknown and afraid their fears are right. A few, brave enough to take an opportunity, get away somehow. And the rest who disappeared, how old are they? They were students at a boarding school with dreams and plans to be educators, inventors, doctors, scientists, thinkers, artists, chefs, wives and mothers, or not.

I can hear them crying, mystified at their surroundings in this horrid destination. They are wearing school clothes, in the bush. I can see any defiance quickly smashed, an example to the others. I can hear the fear in their sobbing.

Did each captor choose one or another girl for himself? Did the girls become communal sex slaves right away? Were there faked ceremonies to alleviate some misshapen sense of religion? How soon were they raped? Were they beaten into submission? Were they beaten if they cried out or simply cried? How soon will most of them become pregnant? What will happen to the children born? How many of the girls will try to run away? Will any succeed? What will happen to the girls if they ever find their way home or are ever rescued? Will there be honor killings? Will they be shunned and closeted for the rest of their lives because they were "ruined"?

I can hear them cry quietly to avoid a beating but the tears well up and fall as they are raped or forced to go about their chores. I can hear them cry quietly as they think of home and family and realize those lives and dreams are gone forever; that they will live in brutality and fear and desperation for the rest of their lives and, if freed somehow, they will be forever changed. Will there be resignation for some because they were so young or frail and just went numb? Will some take their own lives? Will some be shot or beaten to death because they would never fully bend to the will of their captors? Who will bide her time and wait for the opportunity to flee? Who will escape? Will any be rescued?

I can hear them cry out, railing against their government and communities and parents for not protecting them, all governments for not helping, not finding them or bringing them home, obliterating their captors.

I can hear them cry.

Killian lives in Warren.


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