THE INVISIBLE WAR – Review by Susan Granger

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The American military’s most shameful secret is that a female serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.

According to Department of Defense statistics, there were 22,800 violent sexual assaults in the armed forces in 2011. While it’s estimated that 20% of female veterans were victimized while serving, few reported attacks, perhaps because prosecution rates for sexual predators are astoundingly low – with only a tiny fraction of court-martial convictions because heinous crimes like this are covered up by high-ranking commanders. Remember how the Tailhook, Aberdeen and Air Force Academy scandals were swept aside?

Filmmakers Kirby Dick (“This Film is Not Yet Rated,” “Twist of Faith”) and Amy Zierling (“Outrage,” “Derrida”) delve into this disgraceful dilemma, focusing on proud, brave, once idealistic servicewomen who were betrayed by their comrades, like veteran Kori Cioca, whose jaw was broken when she was beaten and raped by her Coast Guard supervisor; Lee Le Teff, Teah Bedney and Valine Demons from the Army; Tia Christopher, Hannah Sewell and Trina McDonald from the Navy; Ariana Klay and Elle Helmer from the Marine Corps. Plus there’s gay Michael Matthews, who was gang-raped by Air Force cohorts. All have suffered depression, PTSD and some even attempted suicide.

According to the film-makers’ investigations, most victims just “suck it up,” often because the person to whom they’d report a rape was the predator himself. Not unlike the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the male-dominated military emerges as an insular, misogynist organization, refusing to investigate transgressions by its own members.

According to Zierling, rape in the military is devastating: “If you’re a civilian, you can seek comfort and support from friends and family and recourse through the criminal justice system. In the military, you don’t have these options.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Invisible War” is an agonizing, infuriating yet effective 8. Earlier this year, after viewing this documentary, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta took the decision to prosecute away from military commanders.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.