director Kirby Dick
Rape is a horrible crime, anywhere and in any context. According to the statistics cited in the film The Invisible War, derived from government reports, the ratio of rapes in the military are something like 2 to 3 times more common than in civilian life. Victims are not just women, but one out of three women will be victimized, statistically, according to their data.
While all that is bad enough, the military’s disciplinary structure is such that criminals are rarely punished. A soldier at any level is to report problems to their superior officer, and in some, perhaps many cases, that person is the offender or is complicit in the offense. A crime that would in civilian life have clearer pathways to justice can be utterly ignored. And the treatment of the victims is something of the dark ages of our times (though those dark ages are true today as well).
The stories told in the film are awful. People are physically disabled and suffer from severe PTSD and many other psychological traumas.
The military’s attitude toward this issue is not unlike the Catholic church’s attitude toward sex abuse by priests. The culture is totally enabling to the problem and doesn’t want anyone to know about it.
Military culture is an extreme of male-dominated rigor and rule. It doesn’t shock me to hear that rape is such a huge issue there, nor that it is treated so cavalierly. I respect those who serve or have served, very much so. It’s a tough and dangerous world for military men and women. It’s a sacrifice. The sacrifice should not be at the hands of ones own fellow soldiers.
The film tells a pretty horrible tale. As a film, it’s not as compelling or profound as other contemporary documentaries have been about crimes, horrors, misdeeds, atrocities. These are facts that should be known, things that should be changed.