In a war-type setting rape can be and has been used as a terror tactic to break and belittle the enemy. Often referred to as a “spoil of war,” rape during wartime conflicts was thought to be inevitable and unpreventable; just another horrible reality that civilians and soldiers alike had to accept and fear. However that does not excuse the fact that rape is a crime and can leave deep scars on a community that could take generations to heal; especially when it is used as a strategy in war and committed on large scale. Throughout my research, I have truly come to see how rape is a “weapon of war” and have witnessed first hand how it has changed from one century to the next. Using that research I would like to expand on the use of rape as a weapon of war throughout the 20th century, explore its causes, and how it has changed from the 20th century to the 21st century.
Firstly I began my research by looking at the history and use of rape throughout conflict, starting with World War I and World War II. One of the first documented cases I found was an isolated rape case committed by an American soldier in France during the first World War. The article, Anatomy of a Court-Martial: The Trial and Execution of Private William Buckner in World War I by Fred Borch, detailed that the American soldier was put to trial, executed, and buried in France for the assault and rape of a frenchwoman. This was the only reputable source I could find for a case of rape during World War I, and it is also the only case I found in my research where a rapist was put to trial for his offense. I had more luck with my research of World War II, where I learned that during their invasion of China, the Japanese Imperial Army evoked an historical event known as the “Rape of Nanking.” During the Rape of Nanking the Japanese attacked, assaulted, and raped hundreds of Chinese women, young girls, and even men; in the hopes of dashing the Chinese morale and driving them out of Nanking so that they could pillage the land for its resources.
Expanding more on the topic of the Rape of Nanking during World War II, in another of my sources titled Sexual Slavery And The "Comfort Women" Of World War II by Carmen Argibay, the author explains in detail about the Japanese government’s reaction to the event. Angered and embarrassed that the Imperial Army had caused an event with such opportunity to embarrass the country of Japan, the Japanese govt. decided to create places called “comfort zones” in the areas their soldiers were be stationed. On paper, the purpose behind these comfort zones was defined as to be a safe place where the soldiers could go to relax, unwind, and to work through off any aggressions they had formed from the battles they were fighting in the war. In theory, it seemed as if the Japanese govt. had created a program that would prevent another Rape of Nanking by making comfort zones a wonderful solution to a terrible problem. However, the true nature of these so-called “comfort zones” was much of a darker reality.
With this in mind, the true nature of these “comfort zones” built by the Japanese govt. were, in reality, brothels that were filled with women taken from foreign countries. Japanese soldiers would go to neighboring countries (such as Taiwan or Korea) and either convince women to sign up to work at these zones (with the false notion that they would be caring for…