Independent Lens: The Invisible War

(Rochester, New York) -- The Department of Defense estimates there were a staggering 22,800 violent sex crimes in the military in 2011. Among all active-duty female soldiers, 20 percent are sexually assaulted. Female soldiers age 18 to 21 accounted for more than half of the victims.

Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of rape victims, The Invisible War, airing Monday, May 13, 2013 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV,  exposes the systemic cover-up of military sex crimes, chronicling the women’s struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. It also features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress that reveal the perfect storm of conditions that exist for rape in the military, its long-hidden history, and what can be done to bring about much-needed change.

At the core of the film are interviews with the rape survivors themselves — people like Kori Cioca, who was beaten and raped by her supervisor in the U.S. Coast Guard; Ariana Klay, a Marine who served in Iraq before being raped by a senior officer and his friend, then threatened with death; and Trina McDonald who was drugged and raped repeatedly by military policemen on her remote Naval station in Adak, Alaska. And it isn’t just women; according to one study's estimate, one percent of men in the military — nearly 20,000 — were sexually assaulted in 2009.

And while rape victims in the civilian world can turn to a police force and judicial system for help and justice, rape victims in the military must turn to their commanders — a move that is all too often met with foot-dragging at best, and reprisals at worst. To make matters worse, 33 percent of rape victims didn’t report the assault because the person they’d have to report it to was a friend of the rapist. And 25 percent didn’t report it because the person they’d have to report the rape to was the rapist himself. Many rape victims find themselves forced to choose between speaking up and keeping their careers. Little wonder that only 8 percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted.

Credit: PBS.org

 


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