Review: The Invisible War


The invisible war in our Armed Forces is the one few know about, talk about, acknowledge or do anything about. This important film exposes the military’s silent response to violent, heartbreaking sexual assaults in the US Military perpetrated by US soldiers against US soldiers. If it was important to march and lobby against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than it is doubly important to protest en masse the Armed Forces culture of sexual aggression against its own.

Frustratingly, when reporting a crime the Armed Service victim may end up the only one punished. Even when there are screams of “Help me!” that can be heard throughout the barracks, and even when the victim is so massively hurt by fellow officers that bones are broken and entire jaws dislocated, others at the scene have remained silent.

As this film points out, sometimes worse that the assault is the way the Armed Forces treats its rape victims in the aftermath.

Both men and women victims can immediately report to a medical facility and document their rape with a sex kit. However, their story will require corroboration that the sex was not consensual. If there is no admission by the perpetrator or no willing third party witness, the victim is the one who will be punished, humiliated and possibly demoted for filing a “false” claim.

The US government reports that over 20% of female veterans have been sexually assaulted while serving. The DOD further admits that 80% of sexual assaults are not reported. A decade ago there were 200,000 reports of rape in the military. Government reports assert that by now half a million women have been assaulted in the military by fellow enlistees and officers.

Featured in this excellent documentary are the detailed stories of several women and one man who were victims of ruthless criminal assaults. What happened, how they were treated when they reported and how a group law suit was formed against the Armed Forces for justice and due compensation, including medical attention for injuries sustained, is the story of this film.

Abigail Disney, the daughter of Roy and niece of Walt Disney, is one of the notable producers of this courageously honest film. Disney is a philanthropist and intellectual voice who spearheads films on social justice issues. While her Disney fortune was predicated on making dreams come true, her presence on this project adds an ironic layer of grief for a generation who so hoped to be treated equal, no matter their race, creed or gender, in the pursuit of their lifelong goal to serve their country.

A handful of the US government facts divulged in the film:

    Those “who have been raped in the military have a PTSD rate higher than men who’ve been in combat.” After discharge these victims can’t hold a job and experience suicidal depression.
    “20,000 men were raped in the past year in the US military.”
    “33% of servicewomen didn’t report their rape because the person to report to was a friend of the rapist.”
    “25% of servicewomen didn’t report their rape because the person to report to was the rapist.”

As the Human Rights Film Festival asserts, change starts with education. Therefore it is gratifying to know that on April 14, 2012, as the film reports, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, watched this film. Two days later he made a monumental decision and change is beginning to happen. But changing a culture will need more and the first step is to be aware of the depth of the problem in the first place.

The Invisible War is currently being featured Nov. 7
Portland Art Museum Northwest Film Center
Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film Series

Film Credits
Executive Producers: Regina Kulik Scully, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Geralyn Dreyfous, Maria Cuomo Cole, Abigail E. Disney, Sarah Johnson Redlich, Nicole Boxer-Keegan and Teddy Leifer
Director and Screenplay: Kirby Dick
Producers: Amy Ziering, Tanner King Barklow
Editor and Assoc. Producer: Doug Blush
Editor: Derek Boonstra
Featuring: Helen Benedict, Anu Bhagwati, Susan Burke, Kori Cioca, Susan Davis, elle Helmer, Amy Herdy, Mary Kay Hertog, Jessica Hinves, Anthony Kurta, Rob McDonald, Stace Nelson, Loretta Sanchez, Hanna Sewell and Jackie Speier
Runtime: 93 minutes
Genre: Documentary
Release: June 22, 2012
Awards: Audience Award – 2012 Sundance Film Festival, NYTimes Critics’ Pik

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mary Ann Hodge #

    A most insightful review of this “must see” documentary. Bev has captured the essence of what Disney wanted to portray–that this terrible problem must no longer be ignored. Hopefully Mr. Panetta feels the same way, as a result of seeing this film, and some action will soon take place to begin to correct these horrendous wrongs.