News / Asia

Q&A with Marcia Jacobs: Rape, Apology and Comfort Women

FILE - Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, at a rally before Korean Liberation Day.
FILE - Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, at a rally before Korean Liberation Day.
Frances Alonzo

All across Asia, as in other parts of the world, there is state of denial with respect to rape in times of war. Plain and simple, it is a war crime. And yet it is very much ignored or belittled. The first international treaty, the Rome Statute, identifies crimes against women as crimes against humanity and considers them war crimes.

So why is the issue so much in contention? From Indonesia, to Bangladesh, India, Japan, China, women and their families are left to pick up the pieces of their lives and try to heal and move forward. And yet the very thing that would help, a simple apology, is so ever elusive.

Marcia Jacobs, a psychotherapist and rape survivor, tells VOA's Frances Alonzo how vital an apology is to healing as well as her own experience as a rape survivor and how she moved past the experience to help others.

JACOBS: I started to see that I had something to offer, and on a very large level, started to give back. You often see, like in rape relief centers, most of the people who work there have been rape victims. So, we find a way to reconnect with our community.

Q&A with Marcia Jacobs: Rape, Apology and Comfort Women
Q&A with Marcia Jacobs: Rape, Apology and Comfort Womeni
|| 0:00:00

ALONZO:  With regard to the shame and blame, how can the community rally around young victims and help the child survivor of rape?

JACOBS:  It really is the mother and the father who will be the ones that will make a huge difference for a small child because that’s their world. They don’t have the school and the community yet. To really help families, what’s important is to be aware of that tendency and to not allow it to be expressed, to just put it aside and just with open arms embrace that child and shield that child and really reassure that child that “this is horrible and it happened, but you’re going to be okay.”

I did some work in Indonesia in 1998 following the uprising in Jakarta against the targeted ethnic Chinese population. I went there to train some groups to work with families where children and adults were raped. There were hundreds and thousands of women activists in that country who were nuns, who were teachers, who were ordinary housewives, who were students, who rallied to be with these children and adults. They had this wonderful program called accompaniment program and all they did was sit with people. Like, “you are not alone, I have your hand in mine and I am here to comfort you.”

ALONZO:  So now, in the case of the Japanese comfort women, which you know happened decades ago. How important is it for them to get this public apology? What does that do?

JACOBS:  It’s everything. Not because it makes the past go away, and not because it can ever really compensate them. The numbers of comfort women who died because of what happened to them in the camps, nothing can make that go away. But, the acknowledgement is that they move from private shame to public dignity. There are statues being erected of these women in some cities around the world. They have become a symbol of courage. They have become a symbol of the injustice in the world. You can just imagine what that means when we feel defiled, dirty, damaged, bad, forgotten and lost, to, someone can stand up tall.

It is extremely important and the hedging that’s going on about that, like the apologies, and it’s retracted, then sort of make a semi-apology. I always really wondered, why does it cost so much to apologize? Why is it so difficult to apologize?  You know it’s politics, it’s misogyny, it’s a whole of different things. But it makes a tremendous difference and if the governments or the institutions that perpetrated the abuse won’t apologize, then groups of people and communities within that culture can apologize and also make a difference.

ALONZO:  So you mean, not necessarily the government themselves but the public at large, the community can come forward and say “we apologize for the actions of our military back then and the actions of our government.”

JACOBS:  Exactly. And you know, one of the really important issues in the apology is that it moves it out of denial. It puts the responsibility where it belongs. When people are silenced, they are cut off from the community. And there is no healing possible. Because healing is really a connection or reconnection with community, with future, with moving forward and every person in the community who gives a voice really does matter. Go for the government apology, go for the institutional apology. But as we’ve seen, very often it’s just you and I and the little people, who, might be the voices that are that tipping point to a real change, to a change in systemic rape as a weapon of war.

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs