«Comfort Women»: an Exploration of the Experience of the Trauma of Sexual Slavery during the Second World War
Authors: Sergey V. Nazarov, Veronika V. Nazarova
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«Comfort women» refers to young women and girls who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese military during World War II. They were abducted from their homes in countries under Imperial Japanese rule, mostly from Korea, and the rest from China, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, etc. «Comfort women» endured extreme trauma involving rape, sexual torture, physical abuse, starvation, threats of death, and witnessed many others being tortured and killed. This article reviews all the studies that have investigated the psychiatric or psychosocial sequelae of the survivors of the Japanese military sexual slavery. Most importantly, a recent study which conducted a psychiatric evaluation on the former «comfort women» currently alive in South Korea is introduced. The participants’ unmarried rate was relatively high and their total fertility rate was relatively low. Majority of the participants reported having no education and being the low economic status. They showed high current and lifetime prevalence of posttraumatic disorder, major depressive disorder, somatic symptom disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and alcohol use disorder. Participants showed high suicidality and majority of the participants still reported being ashamed of being former “comfort women” after all these years. The trauma has affected the mental health and social functioning of former “comfort women” throughout their lives, and even to the present day.