The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"The Invisible War"

The military community exists as a close-knit group of individuals who share experiences of camaraderie, loss, and battle. Currently, 1.85 million of these service members are women. Women have broken new ground on the battlefield and at home, making careers in the military. “The Invisible War,” a new documentary directed by Kirby Dick, investigates the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. Surprisingly, the rate of sexual assault within the military is approximately double of that in the civilian world, and in the last decade there have been hundreds of thousands of rape occurrences.

At the center of the film, there are interviews with rape survivors, women who wanted to serve their country and ended up being abandoned after they suffered sexual trauma. Kori Cioca, a former U.S. Coast Guard seaman, recounts how she was beaten and raped by her supervisor. Suffering from PTSD and anxiety, as well as living with a irreparably fractured jaw, she continues to have nightmares about the attack. Filing disability claims with VA, she has been denied coverage for jaw surgery, but several benefactors have stepped forward to finance her surgery. Ariana Klay, a former Marine officer, was stationed at Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, D.C., where a senior officer and his friend raped her. “The Invisible War” contains a handful of these stories, and all of them end the same. None of the perpetrators were convicted or punished for the crime of rape, and in most of these stories the women were charged with adultery and unacceptable conduct.
It is hard to not be shocked and angry when listening to the way these victims were treated. However, rape victims in the civilian world can turn to an impartial police force, while in the military the victim must use their chain of command. Only 20 percent of service members report sexual assault, leaving 80 percent of cases unreported. This is not surprising since 25 percent of servicewomen must report the instance to the individual who committed the rape. Also, 1 percent of men in the military, nearly 20,000 individuals, are sexually assaulted. The statistics are astounding and the film achieves its purpose of shocking the audience with emotional stories and opinions of experts and elected officials. "The Invisible War" focuses on changing procedures to ensure any woman will be taken seriously when reporting sexual assault. Members of the civilian world can connect with the film's message as one cannot help but think that the women on the screen could be a wife, daughter, sister, or friend. Certainly not an anti-military film, “The Invisible War” showcases a deficiency in the way these crimes are handled and demands changes be made. Two days after viewing the emotional and powerful film, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta directed military commanders to turn over all sexual assault investigations to a higher-ranking colonel.

(Photos: Top: Kori Cioca, US Coast Guard, and husband Rob in an emotional interview. Middle: Ariana Klay in Marine Dress blues. Bottom: Marine Lt. Elle Helmar at the Vietnam War Memorial. Photos courtesy of Cinedigm/Docurama Films.)

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