Editor’s Notes: The Invisible War is available on DVD from New Video
The Invisible War is one of those rare documentaries that not only exposes an unseen issue, but does so in a timely manner when action can still be taken. It moves ahead with its nonpartisan message with statistics directly from the United States’ own government studies and outlines a terrifying reality of tolerated sexual abuse and victim-blaming within the US military. Reported cases of such abuse are rare, and proper justice is difficult in institutions that have been historically self-policed, but what happens to the victims after the dehumanizing indignity of the assault is so severe and unjust that it causes a higher percentage of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) than actual combat. Some victims must wait years only to be denied benefits for permanent physical and mental damage because of inconclusive evidence while rapists continue to serve, blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the damage that they have inflicted on another brother/sister-in-arms.
With every incident a battle of public opinion ensues, tainted with thinly veiled misogyny or misguided patriotic avoidance of the issue as criticizing the military in any context is bound to push a few buttons.
To the casual observer, sexual assault cases in the military would seem to be the logical byproduct of the environment and levels of stress endured by its members, but such thinking is what allows this behavior to continue and sully the reputation of the entire military. These scandals have plagued the armed forces in near decennial clockwork starting with Tailhook in 1991, Aberdeen in 1996, the Air Force Academy scandal of 2003, and now accusations against the prestigious Marine Barracks in Washington DC. With every incident a battle of public opinion ensues, tainted with thinly veiled misogyny or misguided patriotic avoidance of the issue as criticizing the military in any context is bound to push a few buttons. These scandals raise public awareness of the issue and are usually followed by half-hearted attempts at policy changes, but the effects of both wane very quickly in the current climate of twenty-four hour news cycles and bloviating pundits with their infinitely deep wells of Monday morning wisdom.
It seems intuitive that in the twenty-first century sexual assault under any circumstances is unacceptable, but by fostering an environment of victim-blaming and little to no punishment issued to the offending parties the military becomes a haven for sexual predators. Victims and the filmmaker present some pragmatic ideas for reducing these attacks, but no policy change can erase the damage already inflicted on these men and women as they are meticulously wrapped in the unrelenting web of bureaucracy and slowly digested by venomous politicians seeking political gain. It’s going to take more than a few empty campaign promises to correct the fatal issues that allow such an environment to exist, but inroads are being made and The Invisible War is directly responsible for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta implementing changes that would remove the prosecution of such cases from the unit commanders and place it in the hands of senior officers. While this will help create more objectivity and impartiality in the investigation and prosecution of such cases, the filmmakers advocate stricter measures that would place the prosecution and investigation into the hands of an impartial third-party. Such oversight would certainly be met with extreme resistance, but it may be the only way to repair the damages caused by antiquated policies plagued by outmoded ideals undercurrents of sexism.
It is a rare breed of documentary that manages to illuminate an “invisible” issue to the masses while providing pragmatic actionable solutions to the problems presented.
The Invisible War illustrates the power and importance of the documentary film as a tool for identifying and engaging with critical social issues. It is a rare breed of documentary that manages to illuminate an “invisible” issue to the masses while providing pragmatic actionable solutions to the problems presented. The Invisible War does this with care and impartiality, searching for answers and hope without over-generalized finger-pointing or self-aggrandizing exploitation. It is a documentary that deserves a wide audience and an issue that needs to be blown wide open, not for the purpose of debasing the US military, but to protect the veterans that have been assaulted and bring justice to their assailants.
This handsome DVD from Docurama Films includes bonus features such as extended interviews that listen to victims from the film as they relate their painful stories (in some cases for the first time), a Sundance post-screening where victims of abuse find one another and gain strength from the film’s attention to their issue, and a brief look at some of the therapy sessions that have helped these individuals reclaim some inner peace.
If you wish to learn more about this issue or how you might be able to help, please visit the film’s website at notinvisible.org and sign a petition demanding changes to protect our servicemen and women. I would also encourage everyone with access to Netflix to view the film on Instant Watch as issues of fundamental trust with the protectors of any society impacts every one of its members.
[notification type=”star”]89/100 ~ GREAT. The Invisible War illustrates the power and importance of the documentary film as a tool for identifying and engaging with critical social issues. It is a rare breed of documentary that manages to illuminate an “invisible” issue to the masses while providing pragmatic actionable solutions to the problems presented.[/notification]