The Dirty Business of Child Trafficking: What happens to kids if they find their way home?

The Nigerian government announced this week that they reached a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram, and that part of the agreement is to return 200 school girls kidnapped six months ago. While nothing official has come from the group itself, and the ceasefire has already been broken, one has to wonder what will happen to these children when they actually do find their way home.

None of us can even imagine the horror these children went through when their teachers were slaughtered in front of them. Then, to add to the terror that surrounded them, they were herded at gun point through the jungle and forced to denounce their parents and their religion. 

While not all children who are trafficked throughout the world are victims of such initial violence, make no mistake, every single one of them were terrorized, threatened, and forced to comply with their captors. But how does this change them?  

For years, we have heard of the Stockholm syndrome which is a psychological bonding with a hostage's captors. After days and weeks of wondering why no one is coming to save them, one can understand why a victim would begin to form a relationship with the person(s) who offer food, clothing, and support if their wishes are obeyed. But according to an article on kidnapped victims in the January 1, 2009 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the returning kids will have significant problems to overcome. Ten possible reactions are:

  1. Flashbacks of their capture and confinement
  2. Confusion and disorientation of their surroundings and parental authority
  3. A profound fear that the same thing may happen again
  4. Denial that they were taken by force
  5. A sense of hopelessness
  6. Anxiety and panic attacks
  7. Depression
  8. Guilt
  9. Irritability
  10. Social withdrawal
It is said that love conquers all, but in reality, it will be the emotional, physical, and psychological help these kids receive that will determine whether or not they survive their release. We can only hope that children who return from captivity, whether they are taken as hostages or sold through child trafficking, receive the help they need to rebuild their lives. Child trafficking is truly a dirty business.

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