Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
Comfort Women, are women who were forced to do sex work with soldiers by the Imperial Japanese Army from 1932 up until the end of World War II in 1945. The term Comfort Woman is a term that tries to lessen what these women really were to the Japanese Army… they were sex slaves. There is an estimate that there were about 200,000 comfort women during World War II, but there may actually have been more. The majority of women were from Asian countries that were colonized by Japan such as Korea, China, and the Philippines.
In the Philippines, comfort women are now called Lola, meaning grandma. Lola Rosa Henson (1929-1997) was the first Filipino comfort woman to go public about her trauma in 1992.
Lola Rosa was from Pasay City; in 1942 World War II had affected the Philippines and Japan had occupied the Philippines. In her testimony, she recalls that was the time she was first raped by a Japanese military man. She was fetching firewood for her family when a Japanese officer had stopped her a forced himself upon her. She continued to be raped by the same Japanese officer for the next two weeks. Lola Rosa was only fourteen. She had a growing hatred for Imperial Japan and had ended up joining a guerilla group: Hakbalahap. It was one of her travels for the guerilla group where she had been captured by Japanese soldiers and her life as a comfort woman began.
In 1996, Lola Rosa was asked if she has forgiven Japan for the abuse she had gone through. She stated,
“I could also find it in my heart to forgive those who had abused me…… telling my story has made it easier for me to be reconciled with the past.”
Lola Rosa telling her own story had not only helped her but also inspired other Filipino Comfort Women to join together and tell their own stories. In the Philippines, there is a group called the Malaya Lolas, which consists of past Comfort Women and their family members. There were originally 90 members but now fewer than 30 remain due to the death of old age. Filipino Lolas are afraid their stories will be forgotten and erased from history.