(Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)
A number of women and young girls who were rescued from the clutches of radical Islamic jihadist groups in Nigeria were also victimized and raped by the government officials entrusted to protect them, according to Human Rights Watch.
"It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram. It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them," says Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a new report that reveals the women's abusers included camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen and soldiers.
Four of the victims who shared their stories with HRW said they were drugged and raped, while at least 37 others said they were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material help.
"Women and girls abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups — civilian self-defense groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram — told Human Rights Watch they feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse," the report added.
Over 10,000 civilians have been killed by the conflict with Boko Haram since 2009, many of them Christians, who have found themselves the prime targets of the jihadist campaign of radicals.
At least 2,000 women and children have also been kidnapped and kept as sex slaves or forced into marriages by the radicals.
The terror group has also been forcing some of the kidnapped girls to carry out suicide bombings, reports have said.
The Nigerian government has been leading a military campaign to drive out Boko Haram from the country and the surrounding region, and despite reported gains against the militants this year, Nigerians remain living under a heavy terror threat.
Reports such as the latest one from HRW have also exposed deep-seated problems that the country will have to deal with.
President Muhammadu Buhari has responded to the report by stating that he is "worried and shocked" at what has been uncovered, BBC News reported on Monday, and said that survivors in camps must be protected.
Buhari has also reportedly ordered police and state governors to investigate the alleged abuses.
The HRW report includes some direct testimonies from victims of rape, including one 16-year-old girl who said she was drugged and raped in May 2015 by a vigilante group member in charge of distributing aid at a refugee camp after she fled a Boko Haram attack in Baga.
The girl explained that the attacker tried to groom her with food, and though she refused his advances, he drugged her with a drink.
"I knew something was wrong when I woke up. I was in pain, and blood was coming out of my private part. I felt weak and could not walk well. I did not tell anyone because I was afraid," the victim said.
"When my menstrual period did not come, I knew I was pregnant and just wanted to die to join my dead mother. I was too ashamed to even go to the clinic for pregnancy care. I am so young! The man ran away from the camp when he heard I delivered a baby six months ago. I just feel sorry for the baby because I have no food or love to give him. I think he might die."