Thursday, November 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Invisible War

The Invisible War
Directed by: Kirby Dick.

If you’re a woman who joins the United States military, you are far more likely to be raped than if you didn’t sign up. Not only that, but until recently, the person who decided whether or not an investigation was warranted when someone brought up sexual assault allegations was your unit commander, and according to the stats used by The Invisible War, 25% of women who didn’t report that they were raped didn’t do so because the person who they have to report to, is the person who raped them. Another 30% didn’t report it because the person they have to report to is friends with the person they are accusing. A group of military rape survivors recently had their lawsuit against the government thrown out – essentially because the court ruled that being raped was an occupational hazard of being in the military.

Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War is full of shocking facts like this – all of them which come from the U.S. government itself, including the fact that it is estimated that 22,000 rapes occurred in the military last year, only 3,000 were reported and only 100 led to convictions with any jail time – most of the time, less than 1 year. Some rapists had their ranks reduced though or had other such disciplinary action taken against them.

Dick flashes this statistics up throughout the movie, but wisely, he concentrates on the survivors, who tell their stories to Dick himself. It cannot be easy for these women – and one man – reliving the worst moment of their lives, but they do it because they want things to change. Many of them have the same basic story – of being patriotic and idealistic upon entering the military, only to be raped once they got there. Almost to a person, they part they feel was even worse was the treatment they received when they reported the rapes – nothing was done, and sometimes they even found themselves court martialed for adultery (even though they weren’t married, their rapist was, although they don’t get court martialed) or filing a false claim. They are told repeatedly that they were “asking for it”. One woman is told that she shouldn’t have gone out drinking with the men – although it was understood to be part of their job. Another is told she was dressed proactively, even though she was wearing her official dress uniform, which includes a skirt. The military has known this is a problem for years, but has merely paid it lip service – including ridiculous videos and posters shown to the recruits, one of which offensively advises men to play it safe – wait until she’s sober. This ad campaign also includes helpful hints like using the buddy system, as if being in the military is akin to walking home from elementary school.

The most heartbreaking story in the movie is Kori Cioca, who was raped when she was in the Coast Guard, and had her jaw broken by her attacker. She needs surgery to get it repaired, but the government is refusing to pay for it – she wasn’t in the Coast Guard long enough (she’s short by two months); although the injuries sustained in the rape were the reason she left. Five years later, she’s still on a soft diet, and battling her way through government bureaucracy.

The movie has already led to some changes, although the military won’t acknowledge it was the film that made it changed, but when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta watches the film, and then two days later decides to take the charging authority away from unit commanders, it’s impossible to deny the two are unrelated. This is not an easy film to watch, but it is an essential film – one that has already inspired some change, but demands that more changes come. This is an important documentary.

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