The Invisible War

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The Invisible WarYou would think this story from a land far away. A place where women are treated like commodities. A place where the slightest indication of resistance to the system is meet with ridicule, indifference, and arrest. A land caught in an era centuries past.

It’s hard to fathom a story like this originating in the very heart of a nation that prides itself on its record of righting wrongs, fighting evil, and defending freedom.

This is a tale so revolting and disgusting I could only mutter “unbelievable” as it unfolded. This can’t possibly be true? Not to women in America. Not to women who answer the call and choose to defend the very system they thought was there to keep them safe. A system of heroes and honour.

In 2011 a women in the United States military who bravely puts her life at risk and joins the fight in Afghansitan or Iraq has a greater chance of being raped by her fellow troops than she does of being killed at the hands of the enemy. 20% of all woman who serve in the United States military will deal with some form of sexual assault.

The Invisible War consists of several interviews with the survivors of sexual assault going back to the 1960’s and up to the present day. The victims (both male and female) relive the horrific crime inflicted upon them and then share how the military justice system failed them. Imagine being raped by a married man only to be charged with adultery yourself? Imagine coming forward to report you’ve been raped to your Commanding Officer, a person you should be looking up to and respecting, only to be ridiculed and asked if you were trying to be funny? If you were in on a prank of some kind with the other victims who came forward THIS WEEK?

I wouldn’t say the film is about a system that’s broken. There’s actually no system at all. Nor is there any sense of compassion, mercy, or professionalism. It’s treated like its a joke or worse – a crime committed against honourable men by the very people they’ve beaten and raped. It’s disgusting.

Many of the victims state that the pain they went through with the assault was nothing compared to what they went through in their attempts to seek justice, medical and psychological care. It’s as if the order of the day is to ignore victims long enough in the hopes they’ll just go away.

This is a film about bravery. Courage. Honour. Those are the words I would use to describe the people in this film who are fighting for justice and trying to right a wrong.

My heart breaks for the grieving father who encouraged his daughter to join the Army and for the panicked husband who comes home everyday wondering if this will be the day he finds a letter saying goodbye and his wife dead.

Any documentary worth watching should leave you feeling like you need to do more than liking a Facebook page or sharing a thought on Twitter. The Invisible War is such a film. See it. Think about it. Talk about it.


From Oscar®- and Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated; Twist
of Faith) comes The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigation 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 Defence estimates there were a staggering 19,300 service members sexually assaulted in 2010 alone.

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 muchneeded change.

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The Invisible War
Lieutenant Elle Helmer at the Vietnam War Memorial, US Marine Corps, from THE INVISIBLE WAR, a Cinedigm/Docurama Films release

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Caitlin Boyle
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  1. This is a sad sad picture of the military I once loved and proudly served in. Where is the justice indeed? These officers and politicians have failed their own troops. Enough is enough!

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