The Invisible War unveils horror of rape in U.S. military

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Every year, men and women enter the U.S. military, hoping to serve and protect their country. Their dreams are shattered when they encounter the nightmare of rape.

In the U.S. military, 20 percent of women who enter to serve are victims of sexual assault. The Department of Defense has reported an estimate of 19,000 violent sex crimes in the military in 2010. 

Since 1991, at least  200,000 men and women have been raped. But the real number is expected to be far larger, as the majority of rape cases go unreported.

Renowned director Kirby Dick focuses on a subject matter that has been the “invisible” black eye in the U.S. military from over 70 years in his unflinching latest documentary, The Invisible War, to be shown at the Vancouver International Film FestivalThe Vancouver Observer is a media sponsor of this powerful film at VIFF. 

A prolific documentary filmmaker, Dick says this has been a subject long overlooked by themedia. 

"I mean, this is my tenth feature documentary. And I really have never seen an entire subject that could be less known and less understood [than this]," director Kirby Dick said in a phone interview from California.

In The Invisible War, courageous former military men and women denounce the horrifying sexual attacks they’ve endured while in service. They talk of pleas for justice that have been “swept under the rug” by the military justice system, revealing a web of corruption that silences rape in the U.S. military. 

Rape in the military: shattered dreams 

The film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2012, won the Audience Award this year. It came out of Dick's intent to expose the issue after hearing of the alarming numbers and the pandemic case of violent sex acts occurring within the US military.

Over 100 female and male victims appeared participated in the documentary, but only 50 appear in front of the camera. Many victims of rape in the U.S. military suffer from agoraphobia and extreme PDST, because Dick puts it, “every time they spoke out, the military turns on them”.

The brave film includes also researchers, victims advocates and therapists as well as former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, current officials, politicians and experts.

“We  talked to many  men and women -- more women than men -- because men are even less likely to talk about this, and they feel more shame," Dick said.

"It’s psychologically even more devastating for men the experience of being sexually assaulted in the military units.”

The rapes have profoundly marked the survivors, who often have severe cases of depression and high rate of suicide attempts.

“These are men and women who wanted to serve in the military, wanted to serve their country. They have many family members in the military going on all the way back to the Revolutionary war," Dick explained.

"They were choosing this career -- and most of these men and women (rape victims) had to leave the military. It’s psychology. Nearly every person we talked to either attempted, considered committing suicide or attempted suicide.”

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