Friday, June 8, 2012
"The Invisible War" is one of those films that makes you laugh-out-loud in the Theatre for all the wrong reasons.
After all, a handful of individuals interviewed in this riveting documentary (usually a spokesperson for the Military or - on occasion - top Military Brass) often utter up the most outlandish statements in defense when probed by the insightful investigative reporters who crafted this stinging indictment on the systemic cover-up of sex crimes in the armed forces today.
For example, when female soldiers confided to the filmmakers that Officers often refused to take action against Soldiers who raped or violently sexually-assaulted them, top-ranking officials usually pooh-poohed the notion on-camera that there was “no course” of action for the accusers to take.
“If they have a problem with their superior, they have simply to go up the chain of command to lodge their formal complaint,” was the usual response.
Apparently, that was one of the problems.
“The perpetrator is oftentimes their drinking buddy, so no action is taken,” accusers complained.
In the event the victim was persistent – and a complaint was filed – the charges were often dropped without even a slap on-the-wrist.
In contrast, the accusers were harassed, pressured to back down, and often treated as if they were guilty of wrongdoing.
To make matters worse, all of the investigators were men.
“I was told I would be better suited to social work than police work,” one female officer was told off-the-record.
As to the Military’s stance on the issue?
“They felt women were – not only too sympathetic – but also biased,” another female soldier accused.
If an investigation was commenced, the officers were instructed to focus on what the women were wearing, whether they had a boyfriend or not, and that sort-of-thing.
The insinuation was that the women “asked for it”, were a “tease” perhaps, or - just maybe - “deserved” what they got.
Some were advised to just put the unfortunate incident behind them and act as if nothing ever happened (if they knew what was good for them).
Those who proceeded, however, were given a stern warning, which amounted to an intimidation tactic.
For instance, the victims were informed – in no uncertain terms – that lodging a false report would result in criminal charges being brought.
Those who did “press on” usually found their careers – even their lives – in jeopardy.
One female officer – who was stationed at an outpost – reported that she was unable to ask for help from her family because her perpetrators (or their buddies) were screening all her calls from the station that handled all the communications in-and-out of the base.
In essence, The Invisible War, is a ground-breaking investigative ddocumentary that blows wide-open – what has been ‘til now – one of the “best kept secrets” in the U.S. Military.
Sadly, according to the statistics presented in the film, a female solider is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire on duty overseas.
The Department of Defense has estimated that there were 19,000 violent sex crimes in the Military in 2010 and that 20 % of all female soldiers on active duty had been assaulted.
The victims, for the most part, tended to be 18 – 21 years of age.
“They’re vulnerable and naive,” one officer stressed during the course of one candid interview.
“When the Military is at its best, we are brothers and sisters. A family. When a solider is raped, the trust is broken. The incident amounts to an act of incest, which has a devastating impact on the individual."
‘It’s a target-rich environment for a predator.”
Oscar-winning Director – Kirby Dick – was inspired to bring this story to the screen after reading an article “The Private War of Women Soldiers” by Columbia University Journalism Professor Helen Benedict.
“We were extremely surprised by the extent of the problem, how psychologically damaging it was, and the extent of the cover-up,” Dick charged.
“More than half a million service men and women have been sexually assaulted since World War II. That comes as a shock to everyone we’ve spoken to. This is my 10th film and its subject matter is the least known to the public of any of my films, even though it most widely affects our society.”
In view of that, a handful of the victims brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Military recently on the grounds that the Armed Forces – and its Military officers – failed to protect them or even provide a legitimate forum to bring charges in the aftermath of the shocking heinous crimes.
The ruling that came down was stunning.
After "finding" that rape was an occupational hazard in the military, the case was dismissed by the court.
Were the judges out of their minds – on the take – or both?
Needless to say, the ruling is being appealed.
In the meantime, there is hope on the horizon.
According to the producers of the film, two days after screening the movie, the Secretary of Defense – Leon Panetta – 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" to handle the investigations.
Well, it’s a start, eh?
But, I trust you'll agree with me, that it is not enough.
There must be an independent Civilian body at-the-ready to investigate and prosecute the crimes - if and when - they occur.
A cry for justice?
Stay posted for updates.