Despite the prevalence of sexual violence across both war and peace, it has only rarely been commemorated in public memorials. Most dominant practices of war memorialisation, for example, silence conflict-related sexual violence altogether; and despite the hugely widespread occurrence of such violence in peacetime many survivors’ groups argue that it remains shrouded in a culture of silence. While such memorials are few, however, they are not non-existent, and indeed in recent years (in particular since 2010) there has been a significant increase in the number of these public monuments around the world. Many of these, in particular in South Korea but also in other parts of Asia and in the US, Canada, and Germany, are dedicated to the so-called ‘comfort women’ of the Asia-Pacific War: an estimated 50,000-200,000 young women, mostly although not entirely from Korea, compelled into sexual servitude by the Imperial Japanese military. Others remember sexual violence perpetrated against women (and, in some cases, also men and children) in other situations of war, as well as in peace. The map below shows the locations of public memorials remembering sexual violence around the world.
The empirical work of this research project focuses on six memorial projects located within the USA. Three commemorate peacetime sexual violence in the US itself, while the other three are dedicated to the memory of the comfort women. These projects are highlighted on the map below.
Comfort Women MemorialFort Lee, New Jersey
Stanford Contemplative GardenStanford Campus, Palo Alto, California
Column of Strength (Comfort Women Memorial)San Francisco, California.
Survivors' MemorialBoom Island Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Annandale, Virginia
Monument QuiltDisplayed on the National Mall in June 2019
Comfort Women PlaquePalisades Park, New Jersey
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Seoul
Comfort Women MemorialEisenhower Park, Westbury, New York.
Comfort Women Memorial Peace GardenFairfax, Virginia
Comfort Women MonumentLiberty Plaza, Union City, New Jersey
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Korean American Cultural Center, Southfield, Michigan
Comfort Woman StatueGwangju
Comfort Women MemorialNanjing
Comfort Women StatueShanghai Normal University, Shanghai
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial) -Sangju
Comfort Woman StatueBupyeong Park, Icheon
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Croydon Park, New South Wales
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Toronto
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Busan
Comfort Women StatueNam District, Gwangju
Statue of Girl with Bird (Comfort Women Memorial)Buk District, Gwangju
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women MemorialDaegu
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Wiesent, Bavaria
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Brookhaven, Georgia
Statue of Girl with a Caterpillar and Butterfly (Comfort Women Memorial)Geumcheon-gu, Seoul
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women memorial)Yongin City
Comfort Women StatueTainan
Mother and Child Sculpture (Vietnam War Memorial)St James Square, London
Comfort Women MemorialParañaque City
Memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and sexual assault survivorsMillennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario.
Memorial to Victims and Survivors of Sexual Assault by Catholic ClergySt Mary’s Church, Hamilton, New York State
National Memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual AbuseCanberra (forthcoming)
Statue remembering the rape of Bangladeshi women by Pakistani soldiers during the 1971 Liberation WarMujibnagar, Bangladesh
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Glendale, California
Bronze plaque remembering victims of military sexual violenceCsongrád, Hungary
Comfort Women memorial obeliskMiyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Wiesent, Germany
Statue of Peace (Comfort Women Memorial)Hamden, Connecticut
Heroinat MemorialPristina, Kosovo
Memorial to victims of sexual assault by catholic clergyHamilton, New York
Comfort Women MemorialKanita Women's Village
Bench commemorating victims of male violenceTrinity Square, Sutton
Continuous Voices memorial (forthcoming)Victoria Park, Ballarat.
AntimonumentaPlaza de Armas, Guadalajara,
AntimonumentaIn front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), Mexico City
AntimonumentaIn front of the municipal palace of Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl
AntimonumentaGovernment Palace of Nuevo León, Monterrey
Vanessa Guillén Memorial HighwayState Highway 3, Houston Texas
The Vanessa Guillén GateFort Hood, Texas
Vanessa Guillén muralsMultiple murals remembering Vanessa Guillén in parks around Houston, Texas
Statue of Peace (Friedensstatue) (Comfort Women Memorial)Berlin, Germany
Statue of Peace (comfort women memorial)Korean Society of Victoria, Melbourne
Ribbon Gate GBV Roadside MemorialTokai Forest, Cape Town
Memory of Rape in Wartimes: Women as Victims of Sexual ViolenceHunyadi János Street, District 1, Budapest
Sexual Assault Survivors MonumentAppleton, Wisconsin
Pink and black crosses honouring victims of femicideCiudad Juarez
The Survivors' Memorial
The Survivors’ Memorial, situated in Boom Island Park, Minneapolis, was dedicated in October 2020. The first permanent memorial honouring victims of sexual violence in the United States, it is a large built structure which includes benches to sit on, and its design features mosaics and ripple effects.
Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden
The Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden in Fairfax, Virginia, was unveiled in 2014. It is located behind the Fairfax County Government Center, and was put up by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues. It features a boulder with a plaque, and two metal benches in the shape of butterflies.
The Monument Quilt
The Monument Quilt, a project by Force: Upsetting Rape Culture, is a collection of 30,000 pieces of red fabric, embroidered, painted, and written on by survivors of sexual violence and their allies. The Quilt has been displayed at multiple locations around the US, including a display on the National Mall in the summer of 2019, and the individual tiles can also be viewed online.
The Column of Strength
The Column of Strength in San Francisco, California, was established by the Comfort Women Justice Coalition in 2017. It consists of four human figures. Three are young women, in the traditional clothing of Korea, China, and the Philippines, who stand on a pedestal in a circle, holding hands and facing outwards. The forth figure depicts an older woman standing on the ground and looking up at the group on the pedestal, and represents Kim Hak-Sun, the first former Comfort Woman to speak out publicly about her experiences.
Stanford Contemplative Garden
The Contemplative Garden stands at the site of Brock Turner’s 2015 sexual assault against Chanel Miller on the Stanford University Campus. While Stanford built the garden in 2017, plans to include a plaque with words from Miller’s viral victim statement were stalled for over two years after the text could not be agreed. Students applied pressure over the plaque – some created the Dear Visitor project, which used AR to centre Miller’s words in the garden, others installed renegade plaques of their own. In late 2019, an official plaque with Miller’s chosen words was installed.
The Statue of Peace
The Statue of Peace in Annandale, Virginia, is one of multiple direct copies of the statue unveiled outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul in 2011. It was unveiled in Annandale by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues in 2019. The statue features a young girl, wearing traditional Korean dress, barefoot, seated and next to an empty chair. There is a bird on her left shoulder, and she casts a mosaic shadow of an elderly woman onto the ground behind her.