A veteran’s wounds may curtail aspects of their sexuality, or ability to build a family.
Psychological distress, arising from battlefield violence, can engender damaging sexual fixations and behaviours.
War trauma causes harm, directly and indirectly, long after the cessation of hostilities.
Jan and seven other young women from her camp were forcibly installed at a brothel called 'The House of the Seven Seas' at Semarang. She was 21.
Jan O’Herne was one of thousands of Dutch colonists interned when the Japanese conquered Java on 8 March 1942. On 26 February 1944, Jan and seven other young women from her camp were forcibly installed at a Japanese-run brothel called 'The House of the Seven Seas' at Semarang. She was 21.
Jan was reunited with her mother and sisters some months later but remained close-lipped about her experiences. The O’Hernes were finally liberated at Batavia (Djakarta) on 15 August 1945.
Jan emigrated to Australia in 1960 with her husband Tom Ruff, one of the British soldiers who had liberated her family. The public testimony of former Korean ‘Comfort Women’ in the early 1990s finally emboldened Jan to speak out after decades of trauma.
Jan testified at an International Public Hearing of Japanese War Crimes in Tokyo on 10 December 1992. In 1994, Ruff-O'Herne published her memoir Fifty Years of Silence. She continued to share her story until her death on 19 August 2019.
Jan O'Herne 1941
Bandoengan, JavaREPRODUCED COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL P02652.001
…I have forgiven the Japanese for what they did to me, but I can never forget. For fifty years, the 'Comfort Women' maintained silence; they lived with a terrible shame, of feeling soiled and dirty... I hope that by speaking out, I have been able to make a contribution to world peace and reconciliation, and that human rights violation against women will never happen again.
— Jan Ruff-O'Herne
United States congressional hearing 2007
Well done Australia, c 1918
presented to Private Arthur Reynolds, 7th Battalion, 1st Australian Division in recognition of serious wounds received at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915SHRINE OF REMEMBRANCE COLLECTION
Classical representations of women were often used to personify Britain and its colonies—reinforcing an idea that the British Empire was the natural heir of Rome. Women were viewed as agents of civilisation who would rehabilitate brutalised war veterans with love and family life.
Symbolising Australia as a Vestal Virgin was a Eurocentric allusion of the ‘young’ colony’s future promise—ignoring the continent’s ancient indigenous history and geography.
Reviewed 11 February 2022