Nigeria Prepares to Treat Rape, Trauma of Kidnapped School Girls

“What is happening to the girls is an open secret: sexual abuse. We are preparing based on this assumption, which is almost a given,” said Dr. Ratidzai Ndhlovu, Nigeria’s representative to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), of the 276 girls being held by the extremist Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

In a recent article for Buzzfeed, Ochberg Fellow Jina Moore reports on the physical and psychological trauma support outreach that's being planned for the kidnapped students from Chibok and their families. This includes medical support for the effects of rape, which has proven to be the most sensitive aspect of the health planning.

“Rape, real or presumed, brings stigma to families in Nigeria, especially in the rural north, which tends to be more conservative and less educated than the country’s urban areas,” writes Moore. “Pregnancy can compound that stigma, and some health workers worry that those social stresses could leave girls and their families at risk, even once the kidnapping is behind them.”

In an effort to avoid extreme responses by the girls and their families to unwanted pregnancy, including "unskilled abortions" and "suicide," the counseling and abortion care NGO Ipas’s Dr. Nihinlola Mabogunje is working to help parents cope better with the fate of their abducted children. 

“Let the family be counseled on traumatic counseling for them to understand that the girls will be helped when they get out,” Maobugnie said. “These are the possible consequences of rape… but there are ways to deal with it.”

While Maobugnie has pledged to make medical abortions available to any survivors who want them, the practice is currently illegal in Nigeria, except to save the life of the mother. 

According to a report in the Guardian, Boko Haram militants have kidnapped 20 additional girls near Chibok.