I don’t have a glib remark. The devastation and anger is still coursing through me.
In an carefully measured and structured approach, documentarian Kirby Dick paints an incredibly dire picture of a problem with the U.S. Military system, not only that rapes are happening (estimated 20% of enlisted women), but that there are no avenues for a victim to seek justice.
Many of the woman interviewed were part of a lawsuitagainst the government in regards to their rapes, with the end result being a dismissal and a conclusion that in the military, rape is “an occupational hazard”. When I caught this in the news (and didn’t read below the headline), I thought “Well, yeah. It’s been happening for a millenia — If you are a soldier and captured, there is a distinct possibility that you are going to be abused, tortured, and raped”. But never did it cross my mind that the phrase meant rapes BY OUR OWN SOLDIERS AND COMMANDERS.
Victims, both men and women, have been court-martialed for behavior unbecoming of an officer and adultery (they were unmarried, the assailant was). Told that they should behave like a Marine and suck it up. That they were asking for it because of their behavior or how they dressed (in their official uniform). Some were threatened with death. Out of 3500 reports, less than 100 perpetrators did jail time or punished. Most cases were closed by the commanding officer. The list of mind-blowing stats goes on and on.
But, despite the tone, this is not an anti-military film. In fact, the victims and their families remain patriotic and proud of their service. They know that the majority of the people they worked with ARE upstanding and consider them like brothers and sisters. So, the finger is pointed at the asshole douchebags who used this very closed system as the barrel for the fish they shoot, and those that protect them — either because of their own sense of camaraderie with the rapist — or to protect their own asses because a rape under their command represents a failure in their ability to command. Or…because, they, the superior officer, is, in fact, the rapist.
Instead of the past approach of fancy animation and graphics like in his past film, the director take a a very simple approach and lets the camera hold relatively steady as the subjects reveal their deepest pain. The result is sobering.
As a testament to the power of film, two days after watching this, Defense Department Secretary Leon Panetta issued an order to remove control over decisions from the commanding officers, and allow victims to bypass the chain of command in these matters.
After watching, and if it moves you as it moved me, go to NotInvisible.org and sign the petition (at the very least). Currently, there are only 12,500 signatures. I’m hoping that Oscar buzz will elevate the exposure and shed light on this.