Sexual Assault and the US Military’s War on Women

The Invisible War

Directed by Kirby Dirk (2011)

Film Review

As of 2011 (when this film was made), an estimated half million military women (20%)  had been raped. Likewise an estimated 15% of incoming male recruits had either attempted or successfully committed rape.

Officers who engage in rape are often repeat offenders. In 2011, the only option a rape victim had was to report it to his/her commanding officer. Obviously when the commanding officer committed the rape (in 25% of cases), the woman didn’t report it. Nor when the the perpetrator was friends with the commanding officer (in 33% of cases).

When military rape victims do report the crime, the vast majority are pressured to withdraw their complaint with the treat of punitive retaliation. This can range from court martial for filing a false report, adultery, public intoxication, demotion or undesirable discharge without benefits. The PTSD rate is higher for rape victims than combat survivors, and 40% of homeless female veterans report a history of being raped.

Aside from the fact that the woman’s commanding officer is often the perpetrator, military officers (unlike civilian prosecutors) have no training whatsoever in law or criminal investigation.

Approximately 1% of military men (an estimated 10,000 troops) report experiencing sexual assault in the past year. They are even less likely to report it than women.

The documentary includes excerpts of interviews with dozens of military rape victims, as well as from four Congressional hearings on the issue.

In 2011, a group of military rape victims filed a lawsuit against former secretaries of defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates for failing to protect them from sexual assault. The court dismissed the case, ruling that rape is an occupational hazard of military.

The film ends with a postscript that on viewing the film, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta changed the rape reporting procedures to allow victims to report the crime to officers higher up in the command hierarchy. Given their lack of legal investigative training, this doesn’t seem to have increased conviction rates – or reduced the incidence of military rape. By the Pentagon’s own admission, the incidence continues to increase. See  US Supreme Court Hears Case of Military Rape and Statue of Limitation

The issue resurfaced last July this year with the high profile murder of Vanessa Guillen. See Texas Fort Hoos Vanessa Guillen Body Found Suspect Suicide Army Soldier

The full film can be viewed at: https://www.documentarytube.com/videos/the-invisible-war