Comfort Woman

Akiko and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Comfort Woman, written by Nora Ojka Keller, tells the fictional story of two women, a mother and a daughter, bound by their genetics and torn apart by their varying cultures and experiences. Keller explores not only the past experiences of Akiko the mother, a Korean refugee of World War II who is forced to work at an internment camp as a “comfort woman” to Japanese soldiers, but also the damaging psychological effects – including the onset of what appears to be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)- that these experience have on Akiko, and subsequently, the way they affect her inability to form healthy relationships later in life.

Akiko shows many symptoms of PTSD, a debilitating anxiety disorder caused by “exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened” (NIMH 1) The main symptoms of PTSD include dissociative symptoms, emotional numbness, re-living the horrifying experience over and over, and the inability to form healthy relationships after the experience (NIMH 1). Each of these symptoms is exhibited by Akiko at one point in the novel.

Although a variety of events can cause PTSD, there is sufficient research that rape, sexual assault or sexual aggression is a large risk factor...

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