By Maria Duarte in Britain:
Film: The Invisible War
Friday 7th March 2014
The Invisible War
Directed by Kirby Dick
Oscar-nominated director Kirby Dick exposes one of the US’s most disgraceful and well-guarded secrets in this powerful and shocking documentary about the rape of soldiers within its military ranks, which is of epidemic proportions.
It makes such sobering viewing that two days after US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta saw it in April last year he made changes to the way sexual assaults are investigated in the military. Unfortunately they didn’t go far enough as they are still being looked into by military personnel.
The problem lies in the fact that victims have to report any case of rape to their commanding officers which often results in a conflict of interest.
The documentary reveals how a third of servicemen did not report their attack because the person they had to report it to was friends of the rapist. A quarter failed to do so because the person they had to divulge it to was the rapist himself.
It also shows how more than a fifth of female veterans have been sexually assaulted while serving and that a female soldier is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than be killed in combat.
Once they report their attack the women are the ones who are blamed and court martialled, with some being charged with adultery because their attacker was married while the perpetrators face no reprisals and are free to rape again and again.
The US military seems to be a haven for serial rapists, with 15 per cent of incoming recruits having attempted or committed rapes before joining up, according to a navy study.
Through a series of compelling and harrowing interviews with female victims and their families, followed by unflinching head-to-heads with politicians and members of the military hierarchy, Dick paints a disturbing picture of systematic abuse and its cover-up.
To add insult to injury, in 2011 rape was deemed an occupational hazard of military service in an unsuccessful court case brought by 16 male and female rape survivors against former secretaries of defence Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld.
And even though significant reforms were passed by Congress last year to tackle the issue, what this film demonstrates is that until rapes in the military are investigated by an independent body instead of in-house nothing will change.