America: Home of the Brave, Land of the Free Rapists
Traumatic events like sexual assault have the uncanny ability to scar, influence and ultimately transform those who experience them. What if you not only had to experience such an event, but you also had to experience it alone? What if there was nothing you could do to see justice done, because if you tried to take action you were only doubted and disbelieved? In the recently Academy Award nominated documentary “The Invisible War,” director Kirby Dick reveals a startling horror happening in our country, the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.
Dick has an interesting filmmaking style by combining alarming, factual statistics with personal interviews. He does not immediately introduce the core matter of the documentary. Instead, he begins by chronicling women in the military and introducing a few of them who have served (though a man is interviewed in this film, the main focus is on women). As the film continues, a number of personal, horrifying stories are revealed.
Kori Cioca, who served in the United States Coast Guard, was forced to perform a sexual act and was abused to the point of her jaw becoming dislocated. Trina McDonald, who served in the Navy, was both drugged and raped. Sadly, these are far from the only stories told. The film goes on to explore how difficult it is for a victim of military sexual assault to report it. The film explains that the victim is often doubted and looked down upon for reporting a sexual assault. Women in particular are seen as “making up” such stories in order to receive attention and they are accused of trying to “start trouble.” The film’s title is perfectly apt, as the victims portrayed in the film do indeed appear to have suffered an “invisible war”: a war often neglected but felt deeply and painfully by those who have experienced it.
The film has had an immense impact in the media and politics. President Obama has signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes provisions for dealing with sexual assault in the military. The Military Justice Improvement Act has been introduced to Congress, but according to GovTrack.us, only has a 2% chance of being enacted. However, even if the act were passed, the documentary made clear that despite military changes to their method of tackling sexual assault in the past, things have not changed enough. One definite positive outcome is that the Army, Air Force, and National Guard are now using the film as a training tool.
President Obama had stiff remarks on the issue at a conference in the beginning of May, “I have no tolerance for this…If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged — period.”
Yet, the question still remains: How do you abolish an ‘invisible war’?
REACT to The Invisible War
1. Take a stand if you support ending the ‘invisible war’: Urge your senators to support the MJIA bill. Find and call your representatives here: Support MJIA
2. Rape is rape, whether in the military or in civilian life, it is all the same pain. If you have been a victim of rape, seek the support you deserve by going to RAINN, where you can learn how to get help and seek justice if you choose.
3. Help make rape disappear. Do the right thing. When you see someone in danger of being raped, help them get to safety. When you hear people use the term rape inappropriately, tell them it isn’t funny. Teach your family, friends, and strangers that rape is never justified.