“The Invisible War”

Sexually Assaulted Women in the Military

The Invisible War,” a documentary, was released in 2012 by Kirby Dick with the purpose of bringing to light the thousands of female officers in our nation’s armies who have been sexually assaulted while serving and had zero action taken to stop the attacks, prevent further attacks, or prosecute the attacker.

It received nine nominations for Best Documentary, two Oscars, and other awards from film festivals such as the International Documentary Association, Independent Spirit Awards, and the Gotham Awards. It received the award of Best Documentary from the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, the Dallas International Film Festival, the National Board of Review, USA, San Diego Film Critics Society Awards, Seattle International Film Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival.

It’s not just the astounding amount of awards that makes this film a phenomenal piece of work; it is the portrayal of the heartbreaking reality that our nation’s military services have, for years, pushed under the rug thousands of rape and sexual assault accusations and investigations, letting assaulters, many of whom are in high ranking positions, walk free without a single punishment.

This documentary gives many testimonies from victims, women and men, who have served in every branch of the military. Their tales are all the same:  I was raped by one of my squad members/leaders and my commander would turn the tables and blame me, the victim, for bringing on the attack myself.

Of course, 80% of those assaulted will not even report the crime, knowing that it will only fall on deaf ears. It’s estimated that 20% of female veterans have been sexually assaulted while serving.

Victims of sexual assault and rape in the military, especially women, often lose rank after reporting sexual assault, and some lose even more, often spinning into depression and PTSD. Many become homeless because post-trauma they can’t hold their life together. It is estimated that 40% of homeless female vets were victims of rape and assault.

33% of servicewomen didn’t report their rape because the person to report to was a friend of the rapist, and 25% of servicewomen didn’t report their rape because the person to report to was the rapist.

These incidents are not in the past; there are incidents still happening today. This documentary describes what happened in 1991 at a Navy convention in which gauntlets of men, sometimes measuring over 100 officers, surrounded and attacked female officers from all sides; in 1996 at the Aberdeen Army grounds in which the names of trainees were passed from officer to officer in the hopes of bagging as many women as possible; in 2003 at the Air Force Academy in which 142 allegations of assault were all dropped. Today at the Marine Barracks in Washington DC – one mile from the US Capitol Building – women entering this prestigious unit are called objects or mattresses to be slept on, are thought to bring on the attacks themselves by wearing makeup and the regulatory length uniform, are pressured into joining their peers at the bars for hours at a time taking shot after shot.

Before watching this documentary, I had no knowledge of the severity of violent assaults women in the military were being subjected to. I can’t imagine how it feels to be attacked and to be burdened with keeping that attack a secret because no help can be given. These women have risked their lives to serve our country and are then forced to give their bodies to serve their fellow soldiers.

The fight to provide a better legal system in the military to protect victims of rape and sexual assault continues, and a petition exists for any who wish to join this fight.

*All of the facts for this article are taken directly from the documentary “The Invisible War.”


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