Trauma in Context: “Comfort Women” Survivors Speak
The conditions in the “comfort stations” were horrific. Many girls forced into military sexual slavery, especially those from colonial Chosun, served in these brothels for years. For every girl that survived, dozens of others died or were killed. The video located above is a preview of the forthcoming film “Within Every Woman” by Canadian filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung sharing the voices of several survivors. (See her blog for additional footage and to watch the development of the film: www.wewoman.org)
The lengthy video below tells the story of Dutch survivor, Jan Ruff O’Hearne, who was taken from an internment camp in the former Dutch colony of Batavia in Indonesia to serve in a “comfort station”:
In the following video clip, historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki, who published the first documents proving Japanese military involvement in setting up and maintaing the “comfort stations”, speaks to the issue, along with former Japanese soldiers:
Exploring Intersectionality – Knowledge Building from Survivors’ Experiences
Read the testimonies of two Korean survivors of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, Yi Ok Seon and Yi Yong Nyeo. These testimonies were written based on oral interviews with these two women, and are shared with their permission. The focus of their testimonies is on their lives before and after their time in the “comfort station”, helping us to understand the context for their traumatic experiences, and the ongoing effects of that trauma of the “comfort station”, as well as insidious and historical trauma shaped by their identity and socio-temporal context, in the trajectory of their lives.
As you read, take note of similarities and differences between the two women’s experiences. Using the concept of Intersectionality as your starting point of analysis, what can you learn about their experiences before, during and after the war? What were the forces that shaped their trauma? What made them vulnerable to becoming a “comfort woman?” How was their trauma magnified in the post-war period? How were they treated by family, society, government?
Intersectional Framework—some questions to consider:
How were the women’s experiences shaped by their gender, both before, during and after the war? By their class? By their ethnicity? By local, regional, and international forces?