Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Invisible War

Directed by Kirby Dick.
2012. Not Rated, 97 minutes.
Kori Cioca
Jessica Hinves
Robin Lynne Lafayette
Ariana Kay
Trina McDonald
Elle Helmer
Hannah Swell
Rob McDonald
Lee Le Teff
Susan L. Burke
Amy Herdy
Jerry Sewell
Amy Ziering
Kirby Dick

For decades, it’s been a not-so-secret secret that the American military has a serious problem with sexual assault. According to statistics provided by the U.S. government, over twenty percent of women who serve have suffered such a crime at the hands of a fellow serviceman. Since we know that these offenses are not reported nearly as much as they occur, it’s logical to assume that the actual percentage of women assaulted is considerably higher. However, the rapes and other heinous acts are not the biggest problem. Far more troublesome is the culture that enables the culprits by protecting them. In fact, many of the women who have reported being assaulted have suffered adverse effects to their career. These include reduction in rank and pay for various forms of insubordination and less than honorable discharges. This, of course, is in addition to the physical and emotional damage don by their assailants. In The Invisible War, we meet a handful of women, plus one man brave enough to admit he was assaulted, and hear their stories. We also hear from a number of higher-ups in both the military and political arenas.

The stories themselves are heart-breaking. In each instance, the woman was not only raped, but mocked and railroaded for it. The latter two just as hurtful, if not more so, than the rape itself. We also meet the loved ones of the victims and see the trouble these attacks and subsequent events has caused whole families. Their continued frustration is exacerbated by the lack of reasonable answers. Besides that, efforts made by the military to curtail sexual assault have proven to be weak, at best.

For the sake of full disclosure, I feel it’s important to mention that I served three years in the U.S. Army. During my time in service I’ve never heard of an attack on a female soldier. Admittedly, other than basic training I was in fully co-ed units with lots of females around, both military and civilian. Perhaps this relative abundance may have curbed some predatory urges. Of course, I have nothing to back this idea and not even saying that it’s true. I’m just a guy trying to rationalize things in my own head. Then again, I was never in a position of authority so maybe I just wasn’t privy to such things. In any case, my point really is that not all military men are slugs who prey on women. I hope that doesn’t get lost by anyone who watches this documentary, especially since it more than deserves your attention.

There is good news at the end of it all. The film itself contributed to changes in how allegations of sex crimes are handled. Like many policy changes, it’s not a solution by itself, but a step in the right direction. Kudos to the young women, and to the man, who put themselves out there by allowing the filmmakers to document their pain.

MY SCORE: 10/10


  1. This movie really devastated me. I respect the hell out of Dick for exposing this corruption with such conviction.

    Also, I liked how you added in personal touches about yourself toward the end of your review. Good work all around.

  2. Yes, this was a tough one to take, but I'm also glad Dick followed through the way he did.

    Thanks for stopping by!