The Invisible War: A Movie Review
The Invisible War is an expose' on the treatment of victims of sexual assault in our military services. It is straight forward and powerful; the film doesn’t skirt hard questions or issues, nor does it get maudlin.
Like director Kirby Dick’s earlier work about one man’s experience of sexual assault in the Catholic church, Twist of Faith, his latest film, The Invisible War, addresses sexual assault in the military, betrayal by those close to the victims, and the unwillingness of those in power to address the rape and molestation in order to protect the institutional hierarchy and their own status.
The Invisible War not only us educates about the tragedy of rape in the military, about the cover-up of the crimes by base commanders and squad leaders, but it educates us about the problem of rape in our society. The military commanders ignore and hide rapes and the statistics presented in the film of these crimes are on point and at time shocking. They show a higher prevalence of not only victims of rape in the military, but a higher prevalence of perpetrators in the military as well. One statistic in the film stated that the number of men in the military who had been accused of rape was 15% upon entering the military, double that of civilian society. The military clearly has an appeal to abusive members of our society.
A series of interviews begins with each of the women and men discussing how they joined the military. They all tell stories of respect for the services and how most had at least one family member who had served. All were ready, willing and able to take on active duty in the U.S. military.
The interviews slowly turn to stories of victimization, assault and rape. There is a consistency in the stories. All of the servicewomen and men talked about looking for help and being unable to find anyone within the chain of command who would take them seriously. The military service does not allow for civilian jurisdiction in cases involving service members. Rape survivors have to go through the chain of command, often to the same person who assaulted them or a friend of the perpetrator. So, they have nowhere to turn.
The movie exposes the extent of sexual assaults in the military, and it does so without casting blame on any group but the military hierarchy itself and the perpetrators. Several men and women in the film who work within the military social and psychological services have a grasp on the seriousness of these issues. But they have no power to call for disciplinary actions against the rapists.
And it’s not just women who are victimized, more men are sexually assaulted in the military (about 1%), while women have a higher rate of incidence of assault at about 16%. The perpetrators look for opportunities, and more men are available to assault than women. As a psychiatrist in the services mentions in the movie, rape is about power and dominance, not sex.
These women and men who face sexual assault in the military need our full support and the
military culture must change. The movie is a powerful indictment of the military and a tribute to the strength of the survivors and their families and allies.
After 9/11, there was a jingoistic call to support our troops. This movie makes it clear that if you are raped, the military brass will not support you. If you truly support our troops, I recommend you see this movie. If you don’t support military service in a time of perpetual war, this movie will give you more reasons to fight military recruitment in our high schools, universities and all over this nation.
Rating: Pay full price, see it twice.
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