Photo: Invisible War
A new documentary by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick attempts to shed light on what’s becoming known as America’s best kept secret: the epidemic of rape in the military.Inspired by a 2007 Salon story by journalist Helen Benedict, “The Invisible War” tells the stories of both female and male servicemembers who were raped by their peers and commanders. In most cases the military did nothing to prosecute the perpetrators and in some cases actually punished the victims.
These are some of the staggering statistics revealed in the film (all sources come from U.S. government studies):
- An estimated 500,000 men and women in the military have been sexually assaulted since WWII
- In 2009, an estimated 20,000 men were victims of military sexual assault
- Prosecution rates are extremely low: in 2011, officials received more than 3,000 reports of sexual assault and less than 200 military members were convicted
- An estimated 15 per cent of recruits attempted or committed rape before entering service—which is double the rate in civilian society
- 20-five per cent of women didn’t report an incident because their commander was their rapist
defence Secretary Leon Panetta watched the film on April 14. Two days later he ordered that sexual assault investigations be moved to a higher ranking colonel. He also announced that each branch of the armed forces would establish a Special Victims Unit.
The film opens nationally on June 22.
Cioca was told if she went forward with the case she'd be court-martialed for lying. Her husband who was also in the Coast Guard, gave it up for her.
She now suffers PTSD and nerve damage to her face. There are no longer discs where they should be in her jaw but the VA won't pay for surgery citing that she fell two months short of completing two years of service.
Cioca carries with her this knife and cross. She wakes up in the middle of the night screaming as she relives her attack.
Ariana Klay was a 1st Lieutenant in the USMC, stationed at the prestigious Marine Barracks in Washington D.C. She was assaulted by a senior officer and her civilian boss; she charges that the Marine Corps said she must have welcomed the attacks because she wore makeup and skirts, which were part of her regulation uniform.
Elle Helmer was also raped at the Marine Barracks in D.C. She recounts a culture of mandatory drinking and rampant harassment. Of the five cases of sexual assault at Marine Corps Barracks, four of the women were investigated or punished; none of the officers who were the assailants were court-martialed.
In 2009, Deputy defence Undersecretary Michael Dominguez testified before the House Oversight Subcommittee on sexual assault in the military. He says that he told Dr. Kaye Whitley, the director of the Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) not to attend the hearing, which prompts allegations of a coverup.
When asked what victims should do, Major General Mary Kay Hertog, the current Director of SAPRO, advises that women servicemembers should contact their congressman if the military fails to deal with their sexual assault. Hertog announced last week that she'll be stepping down and retiring from the military.
In 2011, lawyer Susan Burke brought a lawsuit against former defence Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates for a system of depriving victims of their constitutional rights.The lawsuit was dismissed based on the ruling that rape is an occupational hazard. She's filed another lawsuit; Cioca, Helmer, Klay are among the plaintiffs.
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