Friday, January 11, 2013

#Invisible_War Invisible No More. Thanks, Academy!

Rape survivior Hannah Sewell with her father. Most of the women in the documentary came from families with a tradition of enlisting. Hannah was told by her command that they had lost all the evidence of an attack that damaged her back and took her virginity. She called Washington DC and found that all the evidence was right where it should be. But her attacker, like most of the rapists discussed in this film, was never held accountable.
I watched a film nominated for the Academy Award for best feature documentary last night on my Netflix instant play (I understand it's available on Hulu and still playing in some theaters, too): The Invisible War. A scathing indictment of the culture of rape that prevails in the U.S. military -- all branches -- and of the failure of command and oversight by those entrusted with the safety of what politicians love to call our brave men and women in uniform. Here's the trailer:

Several of the women who were brave enough to report their rape joined with other survivors in a lawsuit alleging that their command did nothing to pursue the criminal that attacked them. Au contraire, in several cases the command brought charges against the victim. For instance, if the attacker was married but raped a single woman, she would be charged with adultery. (I swear, I cannot make shit like this up.) The court found against the plaintiffs saying that the risk of rape is an employment condition of military service! Needless to say, the case has now been appealed.

Experts believe around 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted while on active duty, far more than die in combat.  Their high rate of PTSD seems to stem as much from the assault on their trust from the way the case is handled as from the physical assault of the rape itself, which is often accompanied by beating and or drugging. By the way, many men are raped while on active duty, too. And as the film makes clear, the families of rape survivors suffer in their own ways. The heroes in this film are the spouses, parents and children who live with someone trying to live with PTSD.

The mother of a former student of mine told me this week that her daughter was thinking of enlisting, because the trade she went to school for was not in demand and the young woman had been laid off from her job. It's the type of trade that is useful in weapons manufacturing, but increasingly robots do that sort of work. No matter who does it, it is at the U.S. taxpayer's expense.

Ditto the all night drinking parties indulged in by officers from the Marine Barracks in Washington DC, the elite post which provides the soldiers who guard, among other things, the White House. Serial rapists continue to work and draw their government paycheck. Who knows how many of them are guarding Barack Obama's family right this minute?

One of the more disappointing performances in the film was by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME). Yes, she met with a delegation of rape survivors and listened to their stories sympathetically. Then she delivered a treacly statement about how much she supports our brave men and women in uniform. What happened to the organic farmer and mom that Mainers sent to represent them in Washington? She got put on the House Armed Services Committee, she found a billionaire husband (who now owns most of the newspapers in Maine) and she started riding in the black limos that go to General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works for the launch of each new nuclear equipped Aegis destroyer, that's what.

I had been meaning to see The Invisible War for a while. Yesterday one of my kids who is friends with the editor, Derek Boonstra, brought my attention to the Academy nomination. Congratulations to all who worked on this film -- it is really excellent. The film's pacing is considerate of the audience as we grapple with the horrible truth of the epidemic of rape and its cover up at our expense.

No comments: