In honor of the Fourth of July, I thought I’d write a movie review of The Invisible War. I saw it last night in the East Village, and it made me feel really patriotic.
The Invisible War is about betrayal: the betrayal of men and women in the armed services by both their comrades and their superiors.
Last year 3,192 sexual assaults or rapes were reported across all branches of the military. If you factor in assaults that go unreported, the Department of Defense estimates the real number of assaults or rapes last year to be around 19,000.
Nearly 30 percent of all servicewomen will be sexually assaulted at least once during their enlistment. In addition, accused rapists in the military have a less than five percent prosecution rate, and less than a third of those prosecuted serve any jail time.
The Invisible War shares the stories of dozens of women (and several men) who were raped or assaulted while serving their country. When they reported the incidents to their commanders, they were often stonewalled, ignored, or punished.
Kori Cioca, who served in the Coast Guard, said she was violently raped by a comrade while in training. The damage to one side of her jaw is permanent and extremely painful. When she attempted to report the rape, her commander threatened to court martial her for lying. Later, when she tried to obtain health insurance for treatment on her jaw, she was denied veteran’s insurance coverage because she left the Coast Guard just short of her two-year contract.
Ariana Klay, a woman serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq, said she was raped by a senior officer and his civilian friend. When she complained, the Marine Corps told her she was at fault for wearing make-up and regulation-length skirts.
Trina McDonald, a woman serving in the Navy in Alaska, said she was drugged and raped several times by members of the military police. Because some of her rapists were high-ranking officers, and thus her complaint commanders, she never filed a report.
These stories, plus many more are told in horrifying and painful detail through personal interviews with the victims. Hearing their stories and seeing how their lives have been traumatized is upsetting and angering.
Most of the women interviewed came from military families- where serving in the military was a part of family pride, honor and heritage. These women enlisted with that sense of hope and pride, only to have their lives ruined by a system that allows predators to assault others with impunity. As seen by the U.S. Government’s own statistics on the matter, accused perpetrators in the army (80 percent of military assaults are still unreported) are almost never brought to justice.
The Invisible War explores the trajectory of these women’s lives in emotional detail: it is gripping and eye-opening in so many ways. All statistics on military rapes in the film are provided directly from U.S. Government sources, and while they continue to claim a “zero-tolerance” policy on this issue, it’s pretty clear that is bullshit.
Seeing the real scope of the problem should spur all of us to action and outrage.
Directed by Kirby Dick (Outrage, Twist of Faith) and produced by Amy Ziering (Outrage, Derrida), The Invisible War is probably the most important film you should see this year.
Happy Fourth of July!