The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague: I'm interviewing Ellen, a Dutch survivor of Japanese military sex slavery. A vibrant, energetic woman with a wicked sense of humor.


Happy new year! It’s Rosh Hashana ( and over the last several weeks I’ve been preparing myself for the new season, new beginning, new dreams and a new adventure!  Everything is NEW, NEW, NEW!

I’ve decided to blog regularly as part of this new wineskin year and in addition to writing about humanitarian projects and unsung heroes in China, North Korea and other parts of the world, I will blog about the oft agonizing process of writing a book.

Completing this book is a dream of mine that originated in 2001, after a publisher asked me to send in chapters and a book proposal. The offer came soon after I had written an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail on “Comfort Women” entitled “No Justice for Sex Slaves?” that coincided with a major UN conference on eliminating racism and discrimination. I argued that the aging sex slave survivors were being ignored by the Japanese government and the world because of racial and gender discrimination. (I’ll dig up that commentary soon).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the euphemism ‘comfort women’ let me inform. ‘Comfort women’ is a horrifying ephemism used by the Japanese Imperial military to describe young women who were stationed in rape camps more often in the frontlines of war and their role was to “comfort” the soldiers to boost morale and keep the men from raping local women and hence prevent the spread of venereal disease. 

Hundreds of thousands of young women were coerced, deceived or kidnapped from their hometowns, often by local collaborators, and forced into rape stations. Can you imagine being trapped in a rape camp? And forced to serve up to 50 soldiers a day? One researcher told me that some of these survivors relayed stories of not even having enough time to eat a small piece of bread. The soldiers kept coming and this one woman had to eat quickly even while a man was attacking her. It is duly unimaginable.

Over the years I have met and interviewed elderly survivors. Their courage and perseverance and dignity have changed me. They have transcended their past to embrace the present and to help change the future. I am a different person from when I started the journey of research and investigating. The survivors have enriched my world and enlarged my thinking and my capacity for compassion and passion for social change.

How can you not be changed by living, breathing history books? What makes it all the more poignant is the fact that the Japanese government has denied parts of their stories and has even spent a lot of money and time to cover up key documents that exposed the truth of their involvement in military sex slavery (ie. Gay McDougall’s UN report on Japanese MSS). There’s more… but you’ll have to wait for the next installment.