From Oscar®-and Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated; Twist of Faith) comes The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. The film paints a startling picture of the extent of the problem—today, a female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. The Department of Defense estimates there were a staggering 22,800 violent sex crimes in the military in 2011. 20% of all active-duty female soldiers are sexually assaulted. Female soldiers aged 18 to 21 accounted for more than half of the victims.
Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of rape victims, The Invisible War is a moving indictment of the systemic cover-up of military sex crimes, chronicling the women’s struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. It also features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress that reveal the perfect storm of conditions that exist for rape in the military, its long-hidden history, and what can be done to bring about much-needed change.
At the core of the film are often heart-rending interviews with the rape survivors themselves— people like Kori Cioca, who was beaten and raped by her supervisor in the U.S. Coast Guard; Ariana Klay, a Marine who served in Iraq before being raped by a senior officer and his friend, then threatened with death; and Trina McDonald who was drugged and raped repeatedly by military policemen on her remote Naval station in Adak, Alaska. And it isn’t just women; according to one study’s estimate, one percent of men in the military— nearly 20,000 men —were reportedly sexually assaulted in 2009.
And while rape victims in the civilian world can turn to an impartial police force and judicial system for help and justice, rape victims in the military must turn to their commanders—a move that is all too often met with foot-dragging at best, and reprisals at worst. Many rape victims find themselves forced to choose between speaking up and keeping their careers. Little wonder that only eight percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted.
The Invisible War exposes the epidemic of sexual assault in the military – one of the most under-reported stories of our generation, a story the filmmakers are proud to be breaking to the nation and the world. They hope the film will help lead a national dialogue about the crime of rape perpetrated on the very people who have pledged to protect our country and are gratified to see the film is already making an impact. Since it premiered at Sundance, the film has been circulating through the highest levels of the Pentagon and the administration. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta watched The Invisible War on April 14. Two days later, he directed military commanders to hand over all sexual assault investigations to a higher-ranking colonel. At the same time, Panetta announced that each branch of the armed forces would establish a Special Victims Unit. While these are promising first steps, much more needs to be done.
To that end, The Invisible War is a call for our civilian and military leadership to listen. And to act!