The Invisible War (Kirby Dick, 2012): USA

Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed at Regal Cinemas as part of the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival.

The Invisible War

You wouldn’t think something this atrocious could have escaped the general public for so long and it’s shocking that this investigative documentary feature is the only really major documentation and outcry for change. The aptly named The Invisible War tells the story of rape and sexual assault by fellow servicemen and often times by commanding officers in this shocking expose of the military’s mishandling, and often cover ups, of rape allegations.

The film follows the stories of a few women and one man who were victims of rape while they served in various branches of the military, but it also tells many stories of rape of women and men that show an alarming pattern where the accusers are often blamed or ignored. We are shown jaw dropping statistics, such as 1 in 5 women report being sexually assaulted in the military, that it is unimaginable that it could be ignored. Yet very few of the accused are ever convicted and often times it doesn’t go further than a slipshod investigation. Hearing some of the stories where victims are treated as the criminals, accused of dressing provocatively, or simply told to stop being a cry baby about it is mind bogglingly outrageous. Some women are even charged with adultery because their attacker was married!

There are several interviews, focus on a few characters, statistics and news footage that gives the film a rather simplistic style. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. With a film of this magnitude all you really want to do as a director is not get in the way of the message, and the message is overwhelming.

It is easy to recommend this film to any woman considering joining the military, but it would be a disservice to stop there. This really calls for a complete overhaul of the military justice system as it is clearly broken. While the film has already had some effect, inspiring Leon Pannetta to take the decision to prosecute or not away from commanding officers, there is still much to be fixed before women can feel safe and protected in our military.

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