“It’s just hideous not to acknowledge it (coercion of young women into sex slaves by Japanese army during World War II), there are so many witnesses who have spoken out about this,” Mrs Jan Ruff-O’Herne, a former wartime sex slave, was quoted by Australian newspaper the Age on Tuesday as saying.

Ruff-O’Herne expressed her anger from her home in South Australian city of Adelaide,saying that Japanese leaders must acknowledge the country’s history of war crimes.

Ruff-O’Herne, now 91, was captured as a teenager with her Dutch parents in Java, Indonesia. She was raped and beaten by Japanese soldiers and later coerced into a sex slave during the war. She migrated to Australia in the 1960s. Her photo is on display at the Australian War Memorial’s World War II section.

The report said that she kept secret her abuse at the hands of Japanese soldiers, even from her family for 50 years until speaking out in the early 1990s in support of South Korean comfort women seeking an apology from Japan.

“First it was only the Korean women, and nobody took any notice because ‘they were only Asian women’. But then when a European woman spoke out the world suddenly took notice,” Ruff-O’Herne said.

The pressure led to the Japanese government issuing a remarkable statement of “apologies and remorse” for abused women, with a promise to teach people about what had taken place.

The report also quoted Tessa Morris-Suzuki, an expert on modern Japanese history at the Australian National University, as saying that the “comfort women” issue had become symbolic in the revisionist drive trying to argue Japan was as much a victim as the aggressor.

“From the point of view of people like Mr. (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe and others in his government, it is something that makes Japan look very bad .. they want to say this didn’t happen, or it didn’t happen the way people think it did – or if it did happen, everybody else did it as well,” Morris-Suzuki said.

The report said that supporters of the abused women fear an attempt to airbrush history after Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga last week indicated the government wanted to verify the authenticity of testimony from 16 South Korean comfort women recorded in the lead-up to the 1993 apology.

“No inquiry has been launched but ultra-conservatives in Japan’ s parliament dismiss the stories and say there are no documents to prove Japanese soldiers forced women into sexual servitude,” the report said.

Ruff-O’Herne said the apology must stand.

“When such a terrible thing happens, you expect an apology. It was important for my healing process. It takes a lifetime to get over a thing like that,” she was quoted as saying.

From Canberra, Xinhua news agency