This afternoon, I watched a well-made and heart-wrenching new documentary called "The Invisible War," which is about sexual assault in the U.S. Military. Not being a military man myself, many of the policies and protocols of the armed forces are a mystery to me. The film seeks to pull back a screen to show the stories of a number of women who served in the armed forces, were raped by their fellow officers, and did not receive justice.
While the film focuses on a few women's stories, it also pulls the lens back to show how widespread this issue really is. The statistics are shocking:
-Since 2006, more than 95,000 service members have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. military.
-Less than five percent of all sexual assaults are put forward for prosecution, and less than a third of those cases result in imprisonment.
What the film shows is a culture of complacency, insularity, and non-transparency. Military personnel are not subject to the same justice systems of civilians. Therefore, a woman who is raped must report it to her superior officer. But what if her superior officer was the one who raped her? What if her attacker is buddies with the commander? Until this year, the policy was that the unit commander had ultimate authority on such matters.
Interestingly, this policy was changed after the Secretary of Defense watched this film. To me, this shows the power of film, of writing, of journalism, of art, to speak truth to power and perhaps actually change things.
The film is currently streaming on Netflix, and you can also watch the whole thing on youtube HERE. Also check out www.notinvisible.org.