Crying shame: war crimes, sexual violence, and the cost of ‘speaking out’
Sedgwick, James Burnham
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Retelling violence can heal. It can also hurt. Post-Second World War exigency silenced numerous victims of sexual violence. The legacy of this ‘silence’ and the brutality of the crimes remain divisive in Asia. Yet, when breaking silence, victims pay a martyr’s price. Their trauma appropriated for wider agendas. Personal suffering commodified as national pain. Scarred bodies and psyches used as criminal evidence. In the hands of others, memories take on currency beyond personal pain and outside circles of healing. In courts, testimonies become valued only for probative worth and legal weight. Politicians use trauma as diplomatic leverage. Restitution claims monetise scales of suffering. No simple formula exists for trauma’s emotional arithmetic. Sharing experiences can provide relief, even release. However, this article shows that, in crying shame, survivors also pay a steep cost for speaking out. For some, it may be better to keep silent.