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?
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 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.
A 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.
Go to NotInvisible.org 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.