Thank goodness for PBS’ show “Independent Lens” which shows lots of independent documentaries/films and which showed The Invisible War this weekend. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for best Documentary Film earlier this year when that category was as tough as it has ever been. This movie has also caused a ripple in political circles although whether it brings change is still to be seen. The movie is about rape – both of men and women – in the military. Some very brave victims went on record with their stories but I have to say that as emotional as those were the most astounding part of this film is the sheer size of the problem in the U.S. military. Let some of the numbers speak for themselves.
* In 2012 there were 26,000 reported sexual assaults/rapes which was a double-digit percentage increase from the year before.
*At least 1/2 of all cases are never reported.
*25% of the cases aren’t reported because the person they have to report to is actually the rapist.
*Only 2% of cases are prosecuted and most convictions receive little if no prison time.
*Because there are more men in the military than women, the number of men being raped is equal to that of women although percentage ratio is lower.
*U.S. courts have ruled that rape is literally an occupational hazard of being in the military which means that those who are raped can’t sue the military or government.
These stats are just overwhelming. The stories were too. In every single case the woman was punished for reporting the assault. Often this included being demoted, discharged without benefits, or even charged with a crime as in the case of one woman who was charged with adultery because her rapist was married but she wasn’t.
One of the main victims featured in the film had her jaw damaged during the rape. It is permanent. She has been on a liquid/soft food (like jello) diet for over 5 years when the film was shot. It took 2 years for the military to review her medical records to act upon her request to receive treatment to fix the jaw and despite the fact that there are x-rays and doctors recommending treatment, the military refused her request saying it was not military related even though the rape occurred on base. This is the way the U.S. military treats people.
I was shocked to learn that a person who has committed rape in civilian life can join the military. Something like 15% of all new recruits have this on their record when they join. I was also surprised to learn that a sexual predator in his lifetime will average 300 victims and it seemed from the film that almost every attacker was a repeat offender.
This is a powerful documentary. I’m not sure if it is on Netflix but Independent Lens will no doubt repeat it in most markets so keep an eye out for it. If you’re a parent or someone thinking of the military as a career this movie will give you reason to pause. Really is a shocking expose.