I’m at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this week and it’s quite an event. There are the obviously beautiful people like Kate Bosworth, Emily Blunt, Taylor Swift and Ireland’s own Eve Hewson (daughter of Bono and Ali Hewson) walking around but they pale in comparison to the amazing indie films on offer. Today I saw The Invisible War, a groundbreaking documentary investigating the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military against women and men.
When Amy Ziering, the producer of The Invisible War, kindly offered up a ticket I was delighted. Then I went home and Googled the movie…90 minutes about rape? To say I was concerned about attending the film is a huge understatement. I quite literally didn’t want to go. Thankfully, however, I did. This is an amazing, shocking, sad, powerful and hopeful film. Please click here to see the preview.
It opens with a few light-hearted vintage military recruitment ads aimed at women. These are followed by clips of women talking about why they chose to enlist. Quickly, the interviews turn serious, and within minutes of starting we learn that each woman (and one man) in the film is a survivor of rape at the hands of a comrade.
Shockingly the following stats unfold: the U.S. Department of Defense estimates that as many as 16,150 service members were sexually assaulted in 2009; at least 20 percent of service-women and 1 percent of men have experienced sexual trauma while serving (which is twice the rate for the civilian population); that only 8 percent of sexual assault cases in the U.S. military are prosecuted and 2% result in convictions. The final shock is the extremely disturbing statement from the Dept. of Defense that rape is considered “an incident to military service”.
Really…”an incident”?! Since when is rape an incident to any career choice? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said recently “one sexual assault is one to many”. Here. Here. Now, what’s being done about it?!
For The Invisible War’s main subject Kori Cioca, not enough. The class-action law suit she and her fellow survivors took against Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, was dismissed in 2011. She has been denied necessary medical attention from the Veterans Administration for the surgical treatment of her jaw which was dislocated by her rapist. She and her family have had to suffer the public airing of a very private trauma in order to receive any justice…and that justice is coming too slowly. If there is a silver lining to Kori going public it is that, as a direct result of The Invisible War being screened this week during the Sundance Film Festival, someone has come forward and offered to pay for her much needed surgery. The estimated cost is upwards of $50,000.
The generosity of the anonymous couple is wonderful but it is not enough – Kori is only one victum. To help the others, and the ones yet to come, we must help bring about a change by taking action. Please, get involved in one of the following ways:
1. Sign and share a petition supporting the STOP Act and the Holley Lynn James Act 2012. It takes less than two minutes to do.
2. See The Invisible War, tell your friends about it or host a screening party.
3. Text NOTINVISIBLE to 313131 to stay informed as to how to bring this issue to Washington.
4. Watch your local PBS listing for The Invisible War which will be showing in 2012/2013 on Independent Lens.
There’s one last thing we can do but it’s a long shot…Amy Ziering jokingly asked if anyone in our audience knew of a way to get this film to President Obama. If you believe in six degrees of separation then this should be possible. Today, I asked a designer friend of mine, who knows someone close to Michelle Obama, if she could help get this film before the First Lady. We’ll see what happens. If everyone tries, maybe together we can be successful! Please help.