Netherlands native photographer Jan Banning travelled to Indonesia with writer Hilde Janssen to find women victims of World War II. At the time, the Japanese military forced many women into sex slavery, capturing some quite literally off the streets and forced in barracks and brothels to serve as “comfort women.” Janssen, a journalist who spent two years searching for these women, teamed up with Banning to tell these heart-wrenching stories of the victims of war. Now in their later years, many of the women broke years of silence to speak up about the repeated sexual abuse they experienced during the war. From months to years spent in these “hells,” many of the women were taken by military personnel and forced to “service” several men per day. The then-girls at the time, some just barely over ten years of age, were repeatedly raped in railroad wagons, factory warehouses, brothels, and some even at home. Whether they served as personal comfort woman for a captain or soldier or as a prostitute in a military brothel, many of the women suffered such horrible internal damage they had to be nursed back to health and undergo surgeries; many were never able to have children. In addition to the photo book created by Banning of portraits of the women, film director Frank van Osch also created a documentary about Jan and Hilde’s search for the women, entitled “Because We Were Beautiful.” Go here to read some of their stories and how the experiences had an everlasting affect on their lives.

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