In the golden bright sun, cross-legged on my porch swing, I read Ann Voskamp’s post on my phone, the swing lazily drifting back and forth. The words startled me. Because I thought I would read about girls from Nigeria. 234 girls still missing. Girls that were studying in a school to become doctors and lawyers in a place where getting an education can get you killed. I thought I’d read about these brave ones, these heroes.
Instead, I saw myself in her words.
I saw myself in the words, mistreated, dismissed, misunderstood and misplaced.
Yes, that’s been me. I am that Nigerian girl. She is me. Woman.
I’ve had boys spread things about me at school, calling me a “trick”, because I didn’t know how to say no to a boy who kissed me. I had been invited to his house for a super bowl party, and I didn’t know how to say no without wounding his ego, disrespecting the generous invitation. He grabbed me before I processed how I could retreat. I was on his turf, and he knew it. This is the conundrum so many women face. We are submissive by nature and it’s taken advantage of and then we are the ones blamed.
When will this stop?
Ann talks about a four year old little girl that was taken from her home in the village, and they searched, and found her in the jungle. She had been raped, lying there, crying. I know horror stories like these.
I lived them.
I hear of these girls on the other side of the world, how they are mangled, beaten to death, raped, taken from over and over. And over again. No right to human decency. No value. They don’t know what it’s like to feel they mean something. That they are something of worth.
I was out with some girlfriends in college, having a drink, dancing. I rode with a boy who promised to take me to a friend’s house. He told me he had to stop by a friend’s of his and pick up something first. But he kept driving, and city lights began to fade. We were headed in the wrong direction. My heart pounded in my chest, then my throat. I asked over and over, as trees began to get thicker, why are you driving so far away from town? Where are we going? The night got darker, the country without city lights, and I implored, pulse hammering, Can you please turn around and take me back? We’re not doing what you said–you promised to take me to my friend’s house.
He told me no, to be quiet, that we were almost there.
We ended up out in the middle of nowhere, in the woods. The road was long and winding, with trees so thick and tall and wild, taking us away from the interstate. He pulled up in the drive. There was a log cabin. I refused to get out. Said I would wait there until he took me to my friend’s house. He demanded I get out of the truck, pulled me inside the house, where unspeakable things were playing on the big screen television, several couples gathered around. He continued to pull me up the stairs, and I could not walk, the drink making me heavy and foggy, not really knowing what was happening. So he dragged me. To the bed.
Later I asked him, once again, to please just take me home, to my friend’s house, now. But he refused, said he was sleepy, so I had to stay the night, in the bed with my rapist. I never made it to my friend’s house until the next morning. I didn’t even have time for a shower.
I drove straight to church, in a purple dress I had packed. And I was late. My parents were furious.
I sat down in the pew, on the front row, feeling every bit like the whore he had made me into as my father began to preach his Sunday morning sermon. I felt so dirty. And I didn’t know it then, but Jesus was right beside me. Because in a room long ago? I’ve written about that day when He made himself scandalous in a room full of religious leaders by allowing a known whore to kneel at his feet, to touch his feet with her hands and with her hair, a moment so intimate it seems inappropriate, sinful even. Was this woman trying to evoke desire? But Jesus saw her. He really saw her soul when he looked in her eyes, and when she kneeled at his feet, her perfume and her hair, an offering of the truest worship. He welcomed her intimate worship fully. And it was holy and good.
I have more stories, and not all of them were just one-time, unpleasant encounters. Some of them were long-term relationships where boundaries were crossed against my will. My face was grabbed forcefully. I was coerced and used, trying to say no, but my voice wasn’t heard. It was silenced. I was caged.
I hear these stories, stories unlike mine, and yet the same– stories of women being trafficked, even in our own backyard here in America, and it makes me cringe, makes me want to turn away, makes me want to shrink back in terror.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that as civilized as we are in this day, that young girl’s and women’s bodies are still being shackled for the entertainment of men, that they are being shot for getting an education, that they are being beaten to death for finding love elsewhere when there is none at home.
The foulness of it, the stench of bodies used and bruised and mutilated– it fills my nostrils and I am disgusted and angered. I want to do something–but they are so far away. I am an American stay-at-home-wife, with very little gas in my car, and no cash in my wallet at the moment.
So the question–what can I do?
What. Can. I. Do? THAT is the question.
No more excuses. No more I’m barely keeping my own head above water, so how can I help someone else?
Because do you see? If I don’t do something, then I’m inviting it to my back door as well. I’m welcoming abuse in to be lashed out on my girls, too. Because those girls over there and around our country? They are my girls. They are your girls.
The brave, beautiful ones in dark skin, and all the colors of God’s glorious rainbow, shining all around the world, they. are. real.
Let’s not buy the lie that because they aren’t here and we can’t see them, that they aren’t real and there is nothing we can do.
That is false, straight from the Greatest Liar himself. His lies are hellish, and keep all our girls in chains.
A very wise man said this~
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ~Martin Luther King
If I sit back in comfort here and do nothing about what is going on there, then what I’m really saying? Is that it doesn’t touch me. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t move me enough to initiate action.
I’m complacent. Apathetic. The very opposite of love.
The thing is? It does touch me. This is not a problem just across expansive waters. This is not a problem we can fix by installing a well in Africa. This is not something we have figured out, because it’s in our own neighborhoods, our churches, our sporting events, the back seats of our daughters’ boyfriends’ cars, and in the alleys where young college students walk home from work.
We’d like to think we have it under control, but we haven’t gained the monopoly to a resolution for this epidemic that is turning into a landslide, because it’s. still. happening. We don’t have the patent on the solution to this problem, we haven’t commandeered this ship, because the problem is right here, all around us. It’s very close, as close as the hairs on the back of your neck when a man lets out a wolf-whistle and a snide remark as you pass him in the stair-well. And it’s also world-wide.
It’s all of us women. It’s you, it’s me, it’s Nigeria and it’s Nepal. It’s the extremist Islam countries, and it’s anywhere else we’ve been taught women are not human, that they are less-than, not equal. That they are a thing to be used, and not a soul that has eternal value. To God, that soul has so much value, it should make us quake in our shoes. But we’ve grown desensitized.
You may have heard this phrase (I have unfortunately been on the receiving end of it), a course joke, uttered in mixed circles–it goes something a little like this:
This kind of thinking is like a dark plague, a disease that slowly, deceptively trickles in over time. You don’t notice the adverse symptoms all at once. It’s a slow decay.
This belief system is what has caused our world to be what it is: a world where women are forgotten, misused, abused, treated as trash to be taken out back.
I am a housewife, a preacher’s daughter. I have a white picket fence, and I live in a fairly safe neighborhood. I drive a nice SUV, carry pepper spray in my purse, and have conveniences at my disposal everyday. There is a policeman just about on every street corner willing to risk his life for my safety. It is a fine palace we live in, called the grand US of A. And these stories–they still happened to me. How much more, those who aren’t safe, those girls out there, living on the edge of the jungle, where government soldiers are afraid of extremist groups–how much more do they need our help?
I am only a housewife. And yet, I am so much more. I can do something. There is no end to the lasting ripple effect that will go out and out and out, if only I am brave.
I may not have much, by some standards, but let’s pull together our not-much, let’s be brave, and let’s stop this disease.
Let’s tell this plague it can go back to hell.
Let’s Bring Our Girls Home.
What else can we do? Here is a small start: (baby steps, right?)
1. Use this hashtag on social media–facebook and twitter. #BringBackOurGirls The story of the missing Nigerian girls wasn’t being covered until some angered women began using this hashtag on social media and making some noise.
2. If you’re a blogger, write about it.
3. Here is a link where you can sign the official Whitehouse petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/work-un-and-nigerian-government-bring-home-girls-kidnapped-boko-haram/fFcLj7s2
It seems the U.S. is springing into action, but the Nigerian government hasn’t shown much interest, due to the extremist groups– so this petition on the official US Whitehouse website is important.
4. I’m considering finding a #BringBackOurGirls pic and making it my profile picture. Would you consider that, too?
5. If you have any ideas, would you put it in the comments? Thanks! (If someone would like to make a picture for us to use for profiles, that’d be awesome. I’m no good at that!)