Master documentarian Kirby Dick is not afraid to kick the hornet’s nest — having previously taken on the catholic church (Twist of Faith), the MPAA (This Film is Not Yet Rated) and hypocritical U.S. politicians (Outrage) — and his latest film takes the U.S. Military to task for their systemic cover-up of rape and sexual abuse. This groundbreaking and shocking investigation exposes a long-standing, violent rape culture in the armed forces that few have been made aware of — in 2010 alone, the Department of Defense processed 3,198 new assault reports, but estimated the actual number of assaults to be closer to 19,000. Even more devastating than the traumatic attack for many of these victims is the aftermath, as in many cases reporting an assault leads to further reprisal — often loss of rank; one woman was even charged with adultery (!) — and in some cases the perpetrator is in fact their direct superior. There is no independent body to investigate these reports, and even if found guilty the punishments are minor (military rapists are not added to the sex offender lists), which means as many as 86% of service members never report an assault. This is an infuriating story that deserves to find the widest possible audience, and Dick (aided by producer Amy Ziering) manages to find some heartwrenching examples thanks to the brave testimonies of several victims. The most sympathetic of these is Kori Cioca’s affecting story: her jaw was broken in an attack and she can now only eat soft foods until surgery is approved, and we witness her struggle as the woefully misinformed and inefficient V.A. drag their heels. The military bureaucracy is represented by the imbecilic Dr. Kaye Whitely, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, who thinks the problem can be solved with lame awareness posters and videos that go so far as to blame the woman for walking alone. Dick keeps things basic stylistically, but by exposing this urgent subject to the world he has forced the U.S. military to take a long, hard look at their policy and culture, which makes The Invisible War a resounding success.
The Invisible War is currently screening at the Documentary Edge Festival. For more information visit their website, and see the trailer below.