Director: Kirby Dick (This Film is Not Yet Rated, Outrage)
Producers: Tanner Barklow, Amy Ziering
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 93 min.
It’s difficult, if not completely impossible, to watch The Invisible War without losing your temper. There’s something particularly infuriating about knowing that the men and women of the armed forces are putting their lives on the line for service to their country but that in addition to that, they face the reality that the Department of Defence considers rape “an occupational hazard of military service.”
Dick’s newest documentary is an incendiary piece of investigative film making. With the aid of a number of women and a man who all suffered at the hands of their fellow soldiers, Dick unveils the epidemic that is plaguing the military. As if the fact that this is happening to begin with isn’t bad enough, there’s also a despicable web that keeps it happening: lack of appropriate channels to deal with accusations, high brass turning their heads and pretending that it’s not happening and ridiculously ineffective educational programs that place the blame on the victims/would be victims. If that’s not enough of a kick in the ass, there little to no support for victims once they leave service. VA doctors fill these individuals up with drugs but fail to provide any real assistance.
It’s devastating to watch all of the victims speak of their experience but Dick spends much time with Kori Cioca, a former Coast Guard member, who has been trying for years to have VA approve jaw surgery after a violent attack which left her with no discs in her jaw and forced her to leave service two months before she qualified for benefits. Beyond the physical damage, Cioca is mentally and emotionally damaged and she has received little to help her through her ordeal. And she’s not alone. In every case the women are ignored and in some cases even punished for coming forward while their accusers remain unpunished and worse, continue to rise in the ranks.
On the rare occasion when someone is brought to justice, they are slapped on the wrist and sent on their way with a warning never to do it again. It’s never taken into consideration that rape is a serial offence and perpetrators are likely to re-commit the crime not to mention that at some point, those individuals will return to civilian life with no trace or their transgressions.
At every turn The Invisible War provides a new bombshell of information. Much of it isn’t new, it seems that every few years a new sex scandal is rocking some part of the service, but the fact that this has been going on for decades and still continues, at such an alarmingly high rate, is infuriating.
Dick’s film is already spearheading change but it’s simply not enough. The only way to really make a difference is to have a zero tolerance policy which is strictly enforced by all levels of service. It’s not enough to simply say that something is being done; a change needs to happen and when the public is aware of the problem and holding those in power accountable, the necessary changes are much more likely to come.
The Invisible War is available on DVD on Tuesday, November 20th.
DVD Extras: Commentary with director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering, extended interviews, Sundance Post-Screening Speak Out, VetWOW survivor retreat and PTSD therapy deleted scene.