As my friend, the author Alex Preston has noted, while spectacular and dramatic, the targeting of women - and of young girls - has been going on systematically for years. You can read his account here, in which he describes meeting members of Boko Haram last year for GQ magazine, as 'the closest I've come to experiencing pure evil'.
Sexual violence, kidnap and rape of women is of course nothing new, especially as a tool of political conquest. The accounts of the medieval Crusades are full of horrific stories, where both sides behaved appallingly.
'As for the women found in the [Muslim] tents' , wrote Fulcher of Chartres in the 12th C of the First Crusaders at the capture of Antioch, the knights 'did them no harm - other than driving their lances into their stomachs'.
The Muslims were no better, 8,000 women and girls were taken prisoner at Jerusalem in 1187, and divided amongst Saladin's army. How wonderful, wrote Imad ad-Din, how many 'virgins were dishonoured and how many proud women deflowered...and how many happy women were made to weep!'
it was a regular story: rape went hand in hand with conquest, or with political struggle. Dominating the 'women of the enemy' a tool of warfare and oppression since time immemorial.
The sexual domination of women has long and tragic links with male phyiscal violence and with armed conflict. Even in the Iliad, it is the image of Andromache being led away by the Greeks that most appalled the Trojans.
When men fight over resources, money and power, women become used almost like pawns in a game - pieces that can be sacrificed and traded in pursuit of a supposedly higher goal.
The link between conflict and sexual violence is one reason why the United Nations passed Resolution 1820 declaring that 'rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide'.
The Boko Haram case therefore requires and deserves intervention from the international community on a major scale - not just a media campaign of #BringBackOurGirls - but something more serious.
The West seems to find it hard to learn from its mistakes - or to learn from its own experiences. Surely now is the time to use all the skills acquired in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere about rendition, high-resolution surveillance and drone strikes.
Action is needed urgently to help these poor girls, the many poor others who have already suffered, and to spare those in the future from the same fate. It would be nice to think that a media campaign might bring about their release. But perhaps Michelle Obama should have a quiet word with her husband over supper this evening - and tell him that these girls cannot wait for justice. All of us watching demand it now.
Or, as a tip to those in the Kremlin celebrating Russia's military power today: perhaps here is a golden opportunity for Moscow to do something on the international stage and show leadership and decisiveness to help those in need. Putin has been one step ahead so far; perhaps here is a move for him to take the lead while others shed tears.