‘Comfort Women’

Military Sexual Slavery by Japan during WWII

“I have forgiven the Japanese for what they did to me, but I can never forget. The war never ended for the ‘Comfort Women’.”

This famous quote comes from Jan Ruff-O’Herne, from the Dutch Colony, who was a forced comfort women* of the Japanese imperial army during World War II along with many other women. Many girls and women from Korea, China, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asian countries were seized from their homes, factories, streets, and schools. They were held in either small comfort stations or near front lines to “serve” Japanese soldiers. Each women were forced to serve nearly thirty men per day.

Additionally, these women were physically abused. Soldiers brutally beat women and even forced hysterectomies and other medical procedures on them without anesthesia. Many women died of STDs, drug addiction, or suicide. Coerced double suicides, a practice among Japanese soldiers where they would commit suicide after killing their favorite women, were common. Those who survived suffered from disease, PTSD and social discrimination.

For a long time, even after the war, correct information about comfort women was limited, due to Japan’s cover-up. However, in 1991, Hak Sun Kim from Korea publicly spoke about her experience, leading other women to join her. She made it clear that her purpose for speaking was not to gain reparation but to expose the truth that had been concealed for so long.

“It was my first time and that experience really caused me so much pain… I cooked for and prepared the needs of Captain Sakuma in the morning, while at night he would lie beside me and forced me to make love with him. I did not put up any resistance every time he would have sex with me, because I was afraid of being hurt. After he was through, I would go to the [lavatory] and douche myself.”

-Ma Fe Yabut Santillan, the Philippines

“Mihashi tore my clothes and ripped them off. As I lay there naked on the bed, he slowly ran the sword over my body, up and down, up and down. I could feel the cold steel touching my skin as he moved the sword over my throat and breasts, stomach and legs. He played with me like a cat plays with a helpless mouse. Then he started to undress. He threw himself on top of me, pinning me under his body. I tried to fight him off and kicked and scratched him, but he was too strong. The tears were streaming down my face as he raped me. It seemed as if he would never stop. To me, this brutal and inhuman rape was worse than dying.”

-Jan Ruff-O’Herne, the Netherlands

“I was forced to have sex with ten to twenty men a day. As a result I was continuously raw. Red raw. Sex was excruciating. Oh, you have no idea how painful it was! You couldn’t imagine it! But I had to be gentle and serve every soldier well. If I didn’t perform well, I would get beaten. Some of the men would be drunk and beat me anyway. One man, although drunk, stayed inside me his whole allotted hour. It was unbearable – but I had to bear it.”

-Madam X, China

*Though it is more appropriate to use the term “sexual slaves” to refer to the “comfort women”, this site used the word “comfort women,” because of the specificity of the term “comfort women” and due to the survivors’ psychological scars from being called “sexual slaves”. For more information, please refer to this site run by the Korean government. http://www.hermuseum.go.kr/eng/sub01/sub010104.asp?s_top=1&s_left=1&s_deps=4


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