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The Invisible War: Rape in the Military

Updated on February 1, 2019
Crystal Gordon profile image

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Film Synopsis

The Invisible War is an investigative documentary about one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets:

the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military.

The film paints a startling picture of the extent of this epidemic, which exposes the most under-reported stories our generation, the nation and the world has ever seen.

Promotional Poster

The Invisible War
The Invisible War | Source

Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering talk "The Invisible War"

Film Facts & Accolades

The Invisible War is a feature-length crime-drama-documentary; as categorized by

This film has been considered an extraordinary activism measure taken by Oscar and Emmy-nominated director Kirby Dick and Emmy-nominated producer Amy Ziering.

Its first screening took place at the Frontline Club in London, UK and it was released on June 22nd, 2012 by the distributor, Cinedigm Entertainment.

The film has a run-time of ninety three minutes and is unrated by MPAA.

As of February 28th, 2013, the film grossed a domestic total of seventy one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight dollars, according to

And, the film is the winner of many awards including:

  1. Independent Spirit Award at the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards
  2. Adrienne Shelly Award at the 2012 Women Film Critics Circle Awards
  3. SDFCS Award at the 2012 San Diego Film Critics Society Awards
  4. CFCA Award at the 2012 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
  5. Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival
  6. Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival
  7. Golden Space Needle Award at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival
  8. NBR Award at the 2012 National Board of Review, USA


Protect Our Defenders to Continue the Work of #NotInvisible
Protect Our Defenders to Continue the Work of #NotInvisible | Source

Negligence & Disregard For Human Life

The Invisible War is a wild indictment of military negligence.

The film sheds light on a problem in the culture at large; in addition to the failure of the VA to provide care for their female and male soldiers.

In turn, the victims were blamed for all incidents and occurrences.

It is an insidious crime that these brave men and women; with nothing more than a burning desire to serve America, were destroyed by the very land they aimed to serve and by the people who were supposed to protect them while they were in turn protecting us.

The statistics on the prevalence of sexual crimes in the miltary, as shown in this film, is astronomical.

Not to mention, the mind boggling fact that most of the abusers were rewarded while the victims lives and careers were destroyed as a result of seeking help from the VA.

"The Invisible War” presented facts and figures, primarily from the military’s own records; that made this perverse abuse much more unsettling.

Prevalence Of Military Sexual Assault

Infographic: Current Stats On Military Sexual Assault
Infographic: Current Stats On Military Sexual Assault | Source

How This Embarrassing Epidemic Occurs

These victims have only one outlet to report these heinous crimes to; that being the commanding officers.

Unfortunately, the commanding officers in many cases turn out to be the victims' abusers or close friends with their abusers.

Therefore, the majority of these sexually based crimes are never reported and among those that are reported, only wee fractions are dealt with in any significant way.

Nevertheless, in common law, a defendant is guilty of rape if he/she possessed a morally blameworthy state of mind regarding the victim's lack of consent (i.e. an unconscious person or the use of drugs/force/threats).

Each incident described in the film fell comfortably within this previously mentioned definition of rape.

But, the question remained: who else can they run to?

Another Issue: Retaliation

 Retaliation against survivors cited in this report included threats, vandalism, harassment, poor work assignments, loss of promotion opportunities, disciplinary action including discharge, and even criminal charges.
Retaliation against survivors cited in this report included threats, vandalism, harassment, poor work assignments, loss of promotion opportunities, disciplinary action including discharge, and even criminal charges. | Source

Nicole McCoy, Rape

Quick Poll

Were You Aware Of This Epidemic In The US Military?

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Further Research On This Epidemic

Lance Corporal McCoy cited that about one out of every three women are raped while they serve in the U.S. military.

So, she started a petition to create a national registry for service members convicted of sexual offenses while on active duty in the military.

I quickly joined more than three hundred and fifty nine thousand supporters in signing this petition, which can no longer be accessed via; although it did reach 371,403 supporters before being closed.

Nevertheless, I mainly signed the petition due to my viewing of this film, "The Invisible War".

I furthered my research regarding this epidemic and was even more intrigued.

McCoy was not featured in this film but she shared a similar story of being raped twice and sexually assaulted two additional times during her three years of service in the military.

On, McCoy stated that her sexual assaults,

“came to happen so often that I assumed it was normal and that it must happen to everyone.”

She also described how badly she was shunned and ostracized.

This broke my heart.

Military Rape Awareness Week

Military Rape Awareness Week: October 12 - 16, 2009
Military Rape Awareness Week: October 12 - 16, 2009 | Source

Follow The Leader: Ranking System

The underlying issue is that if these rapes are never reported, are not punished, and are not required to be divulged on the abusers discharge papers — how will civilians know exactly who are the sex offenders among them after they have been deployed home?

Most rapes are committed by compulsive serial rapists, whether they are in the civilian world or in the military, and they are often times committed by someone the victim knows.

During the film, when the interviewees begin their narratives; they start to talk about someone who would eventually assault them, that is where the serial rapist comes into play.

Very early on in the narratives you hear the victims say something along the lines of:

"I got there, I was alone, I didn't know anybody, and this person with a higher rank befriended me."

This shows that the epidemic can be regarded to those of higher ranks at a serial rapist level because they are using mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.

"The Invisible War” also puts great emphasis on authority and teamwork. You follow the leader; go along with the program, even if it may lead you into a trap full of drunken aviators in the hallway of the Las Vegas Hilton.

The victims wouldn't see traps like that coming. It was not a problem from them to meet with their commanding officer alone given the notion that a higher ranked official automatically earns respect from the lower ranks.

Many service members were bamboozled into savage predicaments of a sexual nature, after which they would be left fighting an invisible war of warped stigma and shame.

Although the rank itself may have earned respect many are undeserving of their positions because winning without dignity or grace is not winning.

But, maybe it can be argued that hurting people is not wrong in the military. It is what they do best. *Shoulder shrug*

My POV: Do not blindly follow the leader. Be cognizant of your surroundings and observant of others AT ALL TIMES. If it walks like a duck...

Slap In The Face Is A Gross Understatement


New Provisions For This Problem

Obama Signs New Military Sexual Violence Provisions Into Law
Obama Signs New Military Sexual Violence Provisions Into Law | Source

What Preventive Measures Are Being Taken?

This epidemic is not a major secret anymore; which has fortunately brought about new ways to deal with it, in terms of preventive recruitment precautions.

For instance, a new recruit may be aware of this unpunished sexual abuse epidemic within the armed forces and be pathological prior to joining (i.e. the recruit might see the military as a target rich environment and join for that purpose rather than patriotic duty).

It is possible that a serial rapist could be inclined to join the military with ulterior motives solely based on the military's encouragement of unscrupulous behavior and carnage, which is heavily documented as well as perpetuated in films, TV, and gaming.

Therefore, it is imperative to change these perceptions and handle this embarrassing epidemic with less discretion and more accountability in order to ward off predators from infiltrating the military and terrorizing other service members.

Until recently, there was no way for these victims to go above their commanding officer to report incidents of rape.

However, Defense Department Secretary, Leon Panetta, saw this film. Two days after viewing it, Panetta issued an order changing that practice.

This demonstrated that authority figures are willing to show regard for the brave men and women who willingly risk their lives in the name of freedom for our country.

A recent Pentagon study found a 50% increase in reports of military sexual assaults, which is good because at least complaints are being received but how exactly are these cases and culprits being handled?

And, it has also been estimated that 15 percent of incoming military recruits attempted or committed rape before entering service.

That should be a deal breaker in light of this disgusting in-house problem the military has.

So, more measures must be taken to put preventive and supportive services in place for these compounded issues within the military.

It has to be dealt with properly.

Pentagon Hiding Data on Military Sexual Assault: Report

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand releases scathing investigation into Pentagon cover-up, neglect of rape claims on army bases
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand releases scathing investigation into Pentagon cover-up, neglect of rape claims on army bases | Source

Rape Victims Say Military Labels Them 'Crazy'

Stephanie Schroeder, Anna Moore, Jenny McClendon and Panayiota Bertzikis say they were raped and then discharged from the military.
Stephanie Schroeder, Anna Moore, Jenny McClendon and Panayiota Bertzikis say they were raped and then discharged from the military. | Source

Kori Cioca: Suicidal After Brutal Rape In The Coast Guard

Former Coast Guard recruit tells of how horrific rape at hands of commanding officer made her contemplate suicide.
Former Coast Guard recruit tells of how horrific rape at hands of commanding officer made her contemplate suicide. | Source

Rape: Occupational Hazard In The Military

This film illustrated that these victims did not have much legal recourse to take outside of the military system.

A handful of extremely brave victims filed a lawsuit regarding this epidemic, but it was quickly dismissed in court due to a 1955 United States Supreme Court decision.

That decision established that no service member can sue the military.

This decision stemmed from The Feres Doctrine, which kept the lawsuit from going forward because the law, and the court in effect, endorsed the idea that rape is an occupational hazard of military life.

The film consists mostly of interviews shown from the POV of the director, congressional testimonies, re-enactments, and sneak peeks into the home lives and sympathetic spouses of the victims.

Their powerful stories about these so called “occupational hazards” seemed to be confessed by the victims for the very first time.

One story in particular was emphasized in the film involving a woman, named Kori Cioca, who served in the US Coast Guard.

She was punched in the face by her commanding officer, who also raped her and left her jaw broken.

She required partial bone replacement for the discs in her jaw; unfortunately, she was refused treatment by the VA hospital system because her term of duty was not long enough to qualify her for medical care.

Ironically, her term of duty was cut short due to the rape she suffered while on duty.

Nonetheless, this type of crime (e.g., rape) is considered an occupational hazard, one nonredeemable for VA benefits.

Therefore, Seaman Kori Cioca of the U.S. Coast Guard had to live on a diet of liquids and soft foods for over five years following the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her commanding officer while actively serving our country.

Watch "The Invisible War" On Youtube

Final Thoughts

"The Invisible War" illustrated an epidemic of reprehensible crimes within the military.

Repulsive sexual assaults which cause higher PTSD in service members rather than from them being involved in actual combat.

There is a name for this now:

Military-sexual-trauma syndrome: "a debilitating condition that overtakes female service members who have allegedly been the victims of sexual assault by their fellow service members".

Also, many female veterans are now homeless and involved in street life because of the post-traumatic stress that resulted from the victimization, which took place in a military that failed to serve them.

We are all important pieces of national identity, which help tie the nation together.

This barbaric behavior is disgusting and should not be condoned by us.

© 2015 Crystal Gordon


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