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Shaniya: The Importance of Being Shocked

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She was just a girl.

I can’t stop thinking about Shaniya, a five year old, innocent child, born to a mother who sold her, allegedly, into prostitution. Just recently, a man took the five year old to a hotel, raped her, and in the process, murdered her. Then, he dumped her body.

He is in jail now.

That’s the story I’ve been following on the Nancy Grace Show. Though it’s fodder for the tabloids, I confess I’ve been a faithful viewer for the past couple of years, mostly because I appreciate Nancy Grace’s outrage. As she presents case after shocking case, zeal transforms her into a hound on the hunt for the scent of injustice. Grace is a former prosecutor out for bad guys’ blood; her nostrils flair and her voice breaks as she discusses the crimes committed by middle-class people. 

Sound ok?

In the last couple of years, the slope has become increasingly slippery as I’ve noticed myself sliding into apathy, not toward the show, but toward the content. Something is twisted in this picture. Nancy Grace’s outrage at the death of girl after girl after girl, has become so commonplace that I’ve stopped reacting. Each death is more and more sensationalized; a backdrop for the public’s everyday viewing entertainment appetite.

I admit it. I like a good mystery. Defense lawyers squirm under Nancy’s gaze; she nails the perpetrators in the courtroom of her own righteous indignation. I’ve got a bit of the bloodhound in me, so I have sat back and enjoyed the show.

But not this time. Something about this case woke me up. Antoinette, the mom in the story, was poor, and probably addicted to drug. She needed money. She had collateral. Her own daughter. This mother allegedly sold her little girl Shaniya like a dog, except you wouldn’t treat your dog like that. The man who is likely responsible for Shaniya’s rape and murder is now in custody without bail. There’s no more “who-dunnit.” There’s just tragedy.

I can’t stop thinking about Shaniya. She was a real person.

I have to admit, I haven’t cried for her. Hardly blinked an eye in hearing her plight. I’ve just turned the television off. Tried to get the disgusting images out of my mind. But I keep waking up in the night and seeing this little child. She was traded. How can this be?

I can’t stop thinking about Shaniya because she is like little girls everywhere, and I know it. I don’t want to feel this story. If I let myself really feel it, my heart would start breaking and I’d go crazy with grief. It’s so overwhelming that I can’t allow myself to go there, except my conscience keeps interrupting and says, “you have to think about it.”

She was just a girl.

Here’s the twist. Girls are sold into sexual servitude all over the world. It’s a known fact. Organizations like International Justice Mission are trying to make society aware of the problem, but the situation is so bad that we listen to the stories and just shake our heads. Girls in our own culture become victims of incest, then runaways, drug addicts, prostitutes. We don’t like it. We live with it. We have become accustomed to the ultimate dysfunction. Desensitized. And then we hear the stories of women and little girls who are raped and murdered. It has become normal. Part of regular news reporting, part of sensational headlines and even—God help us—part of our prurient interest.

So much news. So much that we’re not even shocked anymore. But it’s so wrong not to be shocked.

And it’s time.

To get really mad, but not for ratings.

It’s time.

That the world begins to protect its children.

It’s time.

That rape against a girl be considered just as despicable a crime as murder, because it takes her life either way.

It’s time.

That child pornographers and pedophiles be locked away because they are considered an extreme danger to society.

The future of our society is children. The future mothers of our world, the ones who will tend to our planet and nurture it well, the ones who will raise up our next generation of great leaders and become our next great leaders themselves, the ones who will give their hearts willingly so that we can all be ok, are our little girls. We have to take care of them.

As the song by John Mayer goes:

“Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers
Who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good
To your daughters, too.”


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