The groundbreaking documentary Invisible War takes an investigative and emotional look into incidents of rape and sexual assault in the military where thousands of service women are victimized by their colleagues and, in some instances, even their superiors. This award-winning documentary sheds light on the growing issue of sexual harassment and assault within the military, bringing about awareness of the issue among the general public as well as providing female victims with a platform through which they can speak out and share their stories. My reaction to the film was at first shock, and then anger. Prior to watching the documentary, I was unaware that sexual assault within the military was as prevalent as it is. I learned from the documentary that in 2010 alone, 108,121 veterans had been exposed to sexual trauma while in the military. Despite this large number of suspected assaults, only 244 individuals were convicted of assault. I was shocked to learn that even when trying to report the sexual assaults, victims found that they had little support and care, and even were expected to not speak out so that they wouldn’t ruin the careers of the perpetrators.
The story of Kori Cioca in particular was saddening, as Ms. Cioca recounts her rape while in the Coast Guard and the resulting struggles she had to achieve medical care afterward. Ms. Cioca’s tale is raw and emotional, and I felt a high level of anger towards the individual who had put her through this traumatic event as well as toward the military for not doing more for the woman to help her heal and recover from the event.
Having watched the documentary, I gained a greater understanding of military sexual assault and just how widespread it really is. I also felt compelled to share the story of these women with others to increase awareness among my peers, many of which were active in the military. After watching the film, I began doing research of my own on the topic to increase my understanding beyond the film and to also see what had been done since the release of the film in order to prevent sexual assaults within the military, provide care to those who have been assaulted, and to punish the perpetrators of such assaults.
Having watched the documentary, I believe it could be highly beneficial to a diverse audience. Primarily, I believe the documentary should be viewed by all active military members, both male and female, in order to raise awareness of the issue and make it a topic of discussion among military members. In particular, ranking officers and military leaders could benefit from understanding the issue so that they can take measures to prevent sexual assault under their watch. Policymakers and government officials would also greatly benefit from watching the documentary to understand the issue at hand and take steps to pass more strict regulations, policies, and punishments for those.
Many steps can be taken to decrease the rates of rape and sexual harassment within the military. For one, enforcing stricter punishments for sexual predators can lead to a decrease in the incidents that occur within the military. Additionally, educating new service members on sexual harassment and rape within the military can lead to an increased awareness of the issue and provide essential resources to service members who have become the victims of sexual assault during their time in the military. Lastly, a more organized taskforce and support system for members of sexual assault can help women who are victims to heal from their experiences and move forward with their lives.
Invisible War is a powerful, raw, and emotional documentary that touches on a very real issue in today’s military environment. This documentary has played a crucial part in raising awareness of sexual assault within the military, encouraging more victims to come forward, and to force stricter regulations and punishments for rapists and sexual predators within the military. It is my hope that a follow-up to this documentary, which is now 3 years old, is created to continue in supporting an anti-rape culture both within and outside of the military.
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