Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I was not a willing Comfort Woman

Jan Ruff-O'Herne, 93-year-old Australian former 'comfort woman', still waiting for apology from Japan

ABC News, AustraliaBy Philip Williams

Jan Ruff-O'Herne, 93, stands in the front garden of her beautiful stone house in Adelaide.

A great grandmother, she has many reasons to look back on her life with immense satisfaction. Sustained by her talented, artistic family, nourished by her deep Christian faith, she describes herself as "lucky".

But there were dark days that have shaped her life too.

As a young woman, she was imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II, along with her family and many other Dutch civilians in what was then the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia.

But worse was to come. One day Japanese troops came to make a selection, dragging 10 terrified women and girls from their families to life as forced sex slaves in a military-run brothel.

The first night was the worst.

"The tears were streaming down my face as he raped me. It seemed as though he would never stop," she said.

Ms Ruff-O'Herne's situation only got worse when she realised she was pregnant.

"I was absolutely terrified. How could I give birth and love a child conceived in such horror?" she asked.

After being force-fed pills, she miscarried.

For 50 years she kept silent about her ordeal. She and her British husband migrated to Australia for a new start, but the nightmares and fears her wartime horrors would be discovered kept her quiet.

In the early 1990s she was inspired by the courage of some of the Korean women who were speaking out, demanding an apology and compensation.

Summoning all her courage she travelled to Tokyo to tell her story.

It shocked the Japanese to hear this now-Australian woman was also a victim of sexual slavery facilitated and organised by the Japanese military.

For the next two decades Ms Ruff-O'Herne travelled the world campaigning against rape in war.

"Women should never be raped in war; rape should not be accepted because it's war," she said.

"That is one good thing that has come out of speaking out."
'I'm not going to die, I'll live forever'

She is still calling for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to apologise and offer compensation — a campaign that gained new momentum after he did offer words of regret and millions of dollars for a compensation fund in December, but only for the Korean survivors.

Why not her, why not the victims from China and the Philippines, she asked.

It is a question she hoped might be answered by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, in Japan this week for talks, including with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Ms Bishop welcomed the deal done between the South Korean and Japanese governments, saying: "Australia will consider it, but at this stage we are working closely with both Korea and Japan to understand the implications of it for this part of the world."

The implications appear crystal clear to a 93-year-old lady in Adelaide, with a message for the Japanese Prime Minister.

"He's waiting for us all to be dead but I'm not going to die, I'm going to live forever," she said, with a long, hearty laugh.

Just in case she is wrong about that, her family will take up the fight, determined a terrible history will not be buried with the last of the victims.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Intelligent comments and additional information welcome. We are otherwise selective.