Movie Review: THE INVISIBLE WAR
The Invisible War exposes the frequent incidents of rape of men and women — but mostly of women — soldiers, in the U.S. military, the systematic cover-up of reported incidents and ongoing victim persecution by U. S. military authorities.
The staggering statistics of rape have been reported and acknowledged by the military, but authorities declaim a zero tolerance policy.
As the film indicates, some 20 percent of enlistees report an assault, though the actual number is suspected to be almost double that. Additionally, the number of reported incidents is about double the number of reported rapes in the civilian world. However, as the film also shows, the powers that be within the military have consistently protected rapists — most often superior officers — and further victimized their victims when they step forward to complain about the sexual assault they’ve suffered. The victims are systematically being deprived of their civil rights, their right to recourse.
Presenting The Victims
Kirby Dick, known for his investigative documentaries about issues related to sexuality and society, interviewed more than 150 veterans from all of the branches of the U.S. military. All had been raped while serving in the armed forces, and those who appear in the film speak eloquently about the harrowing physical and emotional abuses they suffered and the ongoing impact the assaults and their aftermath have on their lives — ranging from severe depression to physical disability.
Most of the victims had exemplary armed forces careers prior to their rape. Most are highly patriotic, having chosen a career in the military as an honorable and respectful way of serving the United States. Many are the children of career soldiers, who grew up with the dream of continuing their family tradition of service. Their sense of betrayal is completely devastating.
Most of the victims were assaulted by their senior officers. They report having been drugged or attacked in their sleep. Those who filed complaints were then accused of crimes — including the charge of adultery for having sex with a married man. For almost all, the final result of their victimization was the loss of their careers, either because they were forced out of the military or because they could no longer bear continued service in a system that had so violated their rights.
The reported statistics and denials may illustrate the extent of the problem, but it is the deeply disturbing — heart wrenching and infuriating, to be more specific — personal testimony of the women and men victims that makes it absolutely clear that this wide spread problem is not being addressed satisfactorily by the military, and that concerned citizens and authorities outside of the self-regulating military must take action to see to it that the official zero tolerance policy is fully enforced.
Presenting the Argument, Proving the Problem and Calling for Change
While the film reports victims’ efforts to form a class action law suit, it also follows one specific ongoing case. It is that of Kori Cioca, a former Seaman in the U.S. Coast Guard, who has been forced to fight for insurance coverage for necessary ongoing treatment for the post traumatic stress and reconstruction of her fractured jaw, injuries she sustained during her assault.
Additionally, several other victims present compelling on camera testimony about their rapes. Family members — including those who’ve had careers in the military — speak about their children’s suffering.
To present a balanced view, Kirby Dick also includes on camera interviews with military and government officials., including Mary Kay Hertog, head of the defense department’s Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response Office, whose comments seem hollow and dishonest in light of the harrowing testimony by the victims — making it even clearer that action must be taken to stop the ongoing and unpunished sexual assault of soldiers in the U.S. military.
The documentary does present a lot of talking heads to score its points, but the standard investigative form and style are what work best for this compelling expose that demands justice for the victims of rape in the U.S. military.
There’s still a long way to go, however, to attain that justice. In the law suit covering the claims of Kori Cioca and other victims, the court dismissed the case, commenting that “rape is an occupational hazard of military service.” Can you believe that?
What can be done?
While The Invisible War clearly presents the problem of sexual abuse within the U.S. military establishment, it does not lay out a plan for the obliteration of that abuse. It does, however, suggest several ways in which the abuse can be curtailed.
For one thing, the records of those who are enlisting for military service should be carefully screened for evidence of sexual predation in their backgrounds. It also makes it clear that the procedure for making a complaint about sexual assault be revised to allow victims to go to an authority outside of their military unit, one empowered to and charged with the responsibility to investigate and come to an impartial judgment, and then take punitive action against the perpetrators. It suggests, too, that Kori Cioca and others, including those victims who appear in the film and others whose stories are not told here — be provided with the benefits, the insurance coverage and other compensation they deserve.
Title: The Invisible War
Director: Kirby Dick
Theatrical Release Date: June 22, 2012 (limited)
Running Time: 93 mins.
Parents Advisory: Advisory for content
Production Company: Chain Camera Pictures, Rise Films
Theatrical Distribution Company: Cinedign Entertainment Group
DVD Distribution Company: New Video