Evidently, I am a masochist because I decided to start out this week with some of the most depressing and upsetting material. To make the Monday morning blues even bluer I decided to go and watch The Invisible War at Grafton with a friend of mine. Probably the best and worst decision I have made this week, other than forgetting my wallet at home which allowed me to save money, but not have money at the same time. For those who are unfamiliar, The Invisible War is an Oscar®-and Emmy®-nominated film done by Kirby Dick which conducts an investigative analysis of rape, but not just rape within our normal U.S. society. It discusses rape in what is supposed to be one of the most honorable professions of our country, the U.S. military.
This film intertwines men’s and women’s stories of sexual assault, harrowing statistics about the occurrence of rape in the military setting, bits and pieces of the Senate questioning military officials about this epidemic, and a few military officials giving their pre-approved certified answers about the issue. What results is a heartbreaking story capturing the lives of some men, but many women’s life within the military. The women in the film start off by talking about how excited they were to join the military, how honorable it was and how they had an intrinsic need to serve their country. Then, however, each story derails when each survivor talks about their sexual assault, by the same men that they would be expected to give their life for.
What I found to be the most insulting is that due to military procedure these women are supposed to relay the information up the chain of command. The problem with this is that often their commander is friends with the rapist or 25% of the time the rapist himself. So, what exactly are victims supposed to do in this instance? Well, according to Major General Mary Kay Hertog, the head of their Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (whose shining moment was making a video that blamed a woman for walking by herself), then a woman should just write her Congressperson to get them to help. Are you kidding me!?! This is the advice we are giving to the women who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom?! They also talk about how many sexual assault cases are swept under the rug, and if they are brought forward only the slightest punishment is given.
The story that affected me the most was of U.S. Coast Guard, Kori Cioca. Her commander had assaulted her multiple times, and when she tried to change stations she was told that she wasn’t allowed. During one of the assaults her assailant struck her across the jaw when she attempted to call out, he hit her so hard he damaged her jaw which because it wasn’t dealt with correctly has caused nerve damage and severe pain. Kori is tremendously affected by PTSD and is on multiple medications for anxiety and her jaw. Her husband, who left the military because how Kori was treated, often is woken up by the night terrors that Kori experiences due to her trauma. What makes this story more frustrating is the fact that the V.A. won’t give Kori her benefits because they do not view them as stemming from military action.
Kori and a few others attempted to file a lawsuit against Rumsfeld and others for the mistreatment of their cases and other sexual assaults, but the suit was thrown out. Not because of lack of evidence. Not because of an ill prepared suit. Rather, it was because the court deemed that rape was an occupational hazard while in the military, and therefore they aren’t liable. Let me say that again for you, RAPE is an OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD while in the military. This fact upset me more than any of the other statistics. More than the fact that 20% of military women will be sexually assaulted. More than the fact that almost all struggle with suicide and PTSD. More than the fact that of the 3,192 sexual assault cases that they officials received only 191 resulted in convictions. The idea that rape is an occupational hazard is pretty much saying that being a woman who wants to serve her country is an occupational hazard.
Have any of you seen the film? How do you all feel about it? I wish more people had gone, because there were only about 10 people there and this is such an important issue that people need to be aware of. If you haven’t seen it yet it is available on Netflix! So go see it! It’s an eye opening experience!