The Invisible War (2012)

The Invisible War Poster

5star“The battle ground is your barracks”

If I consider joining the armed forces, there’s a particular court ruling I need to accept—rape is an “occupational hazard” of the job. The Department of Defense figures indicate that over 20,000 rapes occurred last year, and 25% of servicewomen didn’t report the abuse because the official to report to was their rapist.

This is legal. Are you kidding me?

Arianain Marines The Invisible War

The Invisible War premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival where it received the U.S. Documentary Audience Award. It caused a shock wave not only among screeners, but also amongst those in Washington.

Documentarian Kirby Dick decided to investigate the case of rape in the military—a case people vaguely hear about now and again, but is never fully addressed. The devastating number of victims and cases that systematically go ignored each year is disturbing and infuriating. The essential line between right and wrong is grossly blurred as the number of cases build.  There’s a greater danger found among fellow soldiers than amongst enemies.

Women who have been raped in the military have a PTSD rate higher than men who have been in combat. The Invisible War documents the sexual assaults from over a dozen courageous women (and one man) battling for justice, hoping to magnify this epidemic, unveiling this underground crisis to the nation.

Among some of the stories by women who served in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, viewers follow the struggle of Kori Cioca, who left the Coast Guard after being beaten and raped by her supervisor. Five years later Cioca is still suffering from PTSD and has continuously been refused Veterans Administration approval for surgery she needs. Her rapist, who continues to service in the Coast Guard, struck her face, permanently dislocating her jaw.

“What we hear again and again from soldiers who have been raped is that as bad as it was being raped, what was as bad, if not worse, was to receive professional retaliation in their chosen career because they were raped.” Susan Burke, Attorney, Burke PLLC.

The documentary follows the idea that the armed forces have a no-BS attitude, a macho-persona that doesn’t tolerate complaints involving rape. The testimonies are often ignored if not shunned. One servicewoman noted that another soldier expressed that “she was probably asking for it” for being raped or “put herself in that situation.”

“If rape cases came in, they were always given to men and never to women, because we were too sympathetic. We couldn’t see what was really going on, because we always took the woman’s side.” Miette Wells, US Air Force Security Police.

The Invisible War

The studies surrounding the cases, and reports by women, indicate that the rape was as a form of control and power. An uncomfortable statistic remains that rape is twice as common in the military than in civilian life, and an estimated 15% of recruits attempted or committed rape before enlisting.

SHARP Ask Her When She's Sober PosterA social marketing campaign was implemented in 2011 “Wait Until She’s Sober” posters…nothing happened. Posters don’t prevent sexual predators preying on women in the military. SHARP  (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) is considered a joke. Another yearly chore to “check off the to-do list.”

The most heinous accounts are in Washington’s backyard as documented by a female marine stationed at the marine Barracks Washington at Eighth and I streets, one of the most notably prestigious posts where accounts are flooding in of the injustices and inhumane treatment of servicewomen.

On April 14, 2012 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta watched this film. Two days later he took the decision to prosecute away from unit commanders. Panetta told one of the film’s executive producers that the screening of The Invisible War was partly responsible for his decision. But that’s not enough.

Twitter Response to Invisible War

Go to to demand Washington to do more to stop this epidemic. Sign the petition to tell the Department of Defense to better equip our troops to fight military sexual assault by using The Invisible War as a training tool.

16 thoughts on “The Invisible War (2012)”

  1. Good review, I hope the strong message of the doc can make a difference. Even if it stops one rape, then it’s worth it. If I was a woman, I would think twice about joining the military.

  2. Yes, the power of film is immense. I had no idea this was so pandemic. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of your readers.

      1. 2012 was an interesting year for docs, I need to check out: The Imposter, The Invisible War, Room 237, Searching for Sugar Man, The House I Live In, West of Memphis. I already liked: Marley,Woody Allen: A Doc, & Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007
        Maybe one or two you didn’t know in that list. The oscar noms Jan 10th should provide a few also 🙂

      2. I haven’t seen West of Memphis, but I watched the 3-part documentary series on HBO “Paradise Lost,” which chronicles the West Memphis 3 and inspired West of Memphis. See if you can find Paradise Lost on Netflix…the first installment is the best of the three. One of the most horrific documentaries (and most well researched) I’ve seen. Also the only film-related entity where Metallica let their music be used!

  3. This movie enraged me, for all of the right reasons. The message just continues to hit you harder and harder and it just never lets go of you until you feel like your the subjects themselves. That’s the sign of an amazing documentary. Good review Courtney.

  4. Thank you for this great review Courtney. What a shocking story. The enemy within is so much more dangerous for the female member of the military. Knowing this I could never recommend any young woman choose it for a career.

  5. […] Bottom Line: This documentary is a disgusting and merciless glimpse at how rape in the US armed forces is an “occupational hazard” and has continuously been ignored…until now. The Invisible War is well-researched and has shocking testimonies from victims who are demanding to be heard by the government for a change in the system. If this wins best documentary, which I think it will, the government better be prepared to quash this epidemic. My Review […]

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