Saturday, January 26, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Invisible War (2012) ***

NR, 93 min.
Director/Writer: Kirby Dick
Featuring: Kori Cioca, Jessica Hinves, Trina McDonald, Lt. Elle Helmer, Hannah Sewell, Rob McDonald, Cpt. Debra Dickerson

“The Invisible War” is a four star subject in a three star movie. This is important stuff, and it’s important to impress that although I haven’t awarded the movie four stars, that doesn’t make it any less of a priority to see than a four star movie.

The documentary examines the culture of rape in the United States military services. We meet several women, and one man, who were raped during their service, who have systematically been treated as the criminals rather than the victims. The film argues that the system of justice in the military is designed to sweep such incidents under the rug. The victims of such crimes are often ignored, demoted, left little choice but to leave the service, and denied their rightful benefits in the aftermath. The perpetrators of such crimes usually go unpunished and are often left in the same positions that gave them the opportunities to enact their abuse. The system of the chain of command under which all actions must take place in the military often requires the victims of harassment and rape to report incidents to the friends of or the very people who committed them.

The film focuses mostly on one case, a Coast Guard servicewoman named Kori Cioca, who was raped by her superior. Her face was damaged in the incident and she struggles to get the VA to cover her medical costs. We see a good deal of the red tape she must jump through and the years of waiting involved in the coverage review, what we don’t see is expert opinion on her condition. It isn’t that I don’t believe her, but an interview with a medical expert who had examined her condition would help strengthen the filmmakers’ arguments.

We also don’t see enough male rape victims represented. Anyone who doesn’t know by now that rape is more an act of violence and power than it is a sexual act just hasn’t been paying attention. I understand that it’s probably much harder to get men to come forward, but the film really presents this as a mostly female problem when male incidents are actually higher in number. I was glad to see one male victim featured, but the numbers suggest that their support might serve to help the female cause as well.

One of the most appalling revelations of the film is about the behavior and mentality exemplified by one of the most prestigious posts in the country, Marine Barracks in Washington D.C. Perhaps if some of the taxpayer dollars used to fund their bar hopping were used to bring in civilian justice, we might be able to balance those justice scales in the military.

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