The Invisible War
Directed by Kirby Dick. (2012, NR, 93 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 24, 2012
Strap in tightly before the lights go down because you will likely blow a gasket in response to the information contained in this documentary. The Invisible War represents advocacy journalism at its best. You will see in the film’s coda how it has already prompted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to issue a policy change after viewing the film this past April prior to its national release. The rampant problem of rape in all branches of the U.S. military is the subject of The Invisible War.
Though constructed primarily as a talking-heads documentary by Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated), the technique is effective in this instance. The film starts with the testimonies of a handful of women, but steadily increases their number until it reaches an astonishing scope. Using statistics compiled by the military, it has been determined that 20% of all female veterans report having been sexually assaulted while serving. As horrifying as that statistic is, add to it the depressing reality that the majority of sexual assaults are never even reported. The movie shows how reporting assaults can be particularly problematic for service members, who may find their violator and commander to be one and the same. Also detrimental is the military’s macho ethos that protects the predators, blames the victims, and punishes those who report the abuse. Furthermore, not all the victims are women. A couple of men who were formerly soldiers also testify about being raped.
This film is even more heartbreaking because the ex-service members who speak on film all begin by saying how much they loved serving in the military. All of them now feel betrayed by the same institution that has discharged them, accused them of lying, and denied them rape-related medical benefits – all while continuing to protect the accused rapists from prosecution and often giving them promotions. Even if you do not see this movie yourself, please encourage any young woman you know who is considering enlistment to watch this movie first.