When I was a child, there was a man who lived in my area that we kids called “The Bubble Gum Man”. He was well into his 80s or so and always had Dubble Bubble bubble gum for the kids. The problem, though, was that you had to sit in his lap to get it. The adults had no clue about the guy, figuring him to be a harmless old man who watched us kids play. We kids knew and kept well away from the guy. He was even off limits for dares.

As a student at the University of Alberta, I met a girl who was a survivor of childhood pornography. X went into details about her experience and the fact that she wasn’t in a corner gibbering daily spoke of her strength. I was a big admirer of hers and always wished I had a small portion of her determination.

Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes. I remember when I was her age and school was such a large part of my life. I was awkward, the victim of psychological and emotional abuse, trying to figure out where I fit in and what boys were good for. I still haven’t come up with an answer to that but so far I’ve determined they warm up toilet seats and kill spiders. Yet, this girl turned a horrific act into a rallying cry. She’s learned poise and grace beyond her years.

Now there are 200 girls missing in Nigeria. The anguish I feel at hearing this goes beyond words. There’s so many harmed by this simple act. I find myself searching for words and phrases to describe what’s happened and the scope of it stops my brain. I imagine what it must be like for the parents of these girls. You send your child to school. Perhaps they’re chattering away about a boy they like or about something they’re excited to be learning. Later that day they don’t return. You wait. Supper comes and goes. You contact their friends’ parents. No one’s heard anything. You call the police. That’s when you learn the full impact of what’s happened. Your child, your baby. The one you gave birth to. Held in your arms and nursed at your breast. The little girl whose scrapes and cuts you kissed is just one of many. How do you hold on in the face of that?

Then there’s the girls themselves. I have no doubt many of them are tougher than we adults realize and will come through this. However, this is a hell that would break even the most seasoned of veteran soldiers. No one should have to live through this kind of trauma. Ever. When these girls get out of this, and I have no doubt they will, the rest of the world will owe it to them to help heal. After all, this is a situation all of us have helped contribute to in one way or another.

Yes, I imagine I’m going to get flack for that statement but each of us are responsible in some way for letting the situation get as far as it has. Too many of us have allowed hate and fear to rule and fought back with bloodshed and death. Those aren’t solutions. Never have been. If we had stood up and stopped the situation when corporations and governments ran roughshod over the populace in their bid for power and money, groups like this wouldn’t have gotten the hold they have now. We have a voice. It’s up to us to use it.

However, that’s done now and we can’t change that. What we can do now is use our voice to get those girls back safely immediately by any means possible. I personally don’t care who does it and anyone who starts spouting politics in the face of this situation is a self-aggrandizing jerk. This isn’t about politics or religion or power or money. It’s about girls. That’s it.

Trauma and childhood should never be used in the same sentence. When it happens, though, it’s up to us to stop it. Push politics and religion and even personal agendas aside to ensure our children are safe and happy. They should be laughing and playing. Not fighting for their lives and sanity.