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Boko Haram Escapees Shunned by Family, Communities: Report

Nigerian women and girls freed from Boko Haram captivity are ostracized by their families and communities, a report has found.
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Women and girls kidnapped and raped by Boko Haram continue to suffer even after their escape because of mistrust and hostility from family and friends, a report said Tuesday.

Thousands of Nigerians have been forced into a life of rape or involuntary marriage and some have been used as suicide bombers. But even for the rare few who escape, the misery is far from over, according to the report by UNICEF and London-based charity International Alert.

Many women who return to their families are viewed with deep suspicion, the report said, either because they are carrying the children of Boko Haram fighters or because their communities fear they may have been radicalized during captivity.

"Many of them are suffering from acute mental distress resulting from sexual, psychological and physical violence suffered in captivity," according to the report. "Yet, a significant proportion of them still face stigma and rejection from their communities."

Not only are many women ostracized, communities fear that babies fathered through sexual violence during captivity "will become the next generation of fighters, as they carry the violent characteristics of their biological fathers," the report said.

Related: Millions to Be Sent Back to Boko Haram's Bloody Heartland

Boko Haram is an ISIS affiliate that is ranked as the world's deadliest terror group. Its tactic of kidnapping women and girls came to international attention in April 2014 when it abducted 276 girls from a school in the town of Chibok.

The ensuing #BringBackOurGirls campaign was backed by Michelle Obama and others, and the U.S. and others sent military assistance. But the girls have not been found.

Despite the notoriety of the Chibok Girls, the reality is they represent a fraction of the estimated 2,000 victims who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram.

In the past year, the Nigerian government has been successful in taking back most of the territory once claimed by Boko Haram as its caliphate. Although the insurgents' attacks have continued unabated, the army's push has recovered many of their captives.

However the report added that the Nigerian government's response to the shunning of freed women has been "limited" and humanitarian groups have only just begun to address the victims' needs.