Kirby Dick is not a foreign name to me. I’ve seen his two documentary films “Twist of Faith” (about child abuse in the Catholic church) and “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” (about the American film ratings board) and his last film before this one “Outrage” (about the anti-gay lobby in Washington) has been sitting on my watchlist since it came out. He is considered a controversial documentarian but I don’t see what’s so controversial about his films since he documents already well established problems in authoritative institutions. Be it the church, the government or a censorship board (if it quacks like a duck…) - institutions that wield the power to influence our daily lives. And his latest film, “The Invisible War”, is very much along those lines as it is about the rape epidemic of female soldiers within the US military forces.
Actually the fact that his films are even labeled as controversial only reflects the readiness of certain facets of our society not to question authority, for whatever reasons, and with that to ultimately ignore the mentioned problems, including this one.
Rape is a difficult subject matter as is, but when you hear how the military treats rape victims within its ranks, with hush-up tactics, victim blaming or even flat out telling the victims to “suck it up”, it becomes absolutely infuriating. This is what “The Invisible War” is, it’s infuriating and disturbing, and it is exactly what it should be simply because such treatment of people who have gone through something as traumatic as rape is inexcusable. Except if you’re the military of course, because officially now rape within the ranks is considered an “occupational hazard”.
The plethora of statistics found within this film is a bit overwhelming. The estimate numbers of victims, how many of said victims actually file in charges, and how many of those charges get processed and ultimately how many of offenders get punished, etc. - all of these numbers are quite harrowing, but I will not repeat them here. What I will say instead is that all this information is based on government data (as the film states at the very start) and it makes for quite a convincing case that the military is going out of its way to marginalize the victims and protect the offenders, who, more often than not seem to be of higher rank than their victims.
It’s a very thorough expose that also goes in to the psychological ramifications of such an event in such a controlled environment as is the military. This is presented through personal testimony of the victims and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to listen to, especially when one considers that most of them joined the armed forces out of a sense of patriotism and with very idealistic intentions. It’s a betrayal not only by the people who you considered to be your friends and peers, brothers even, but by the very institution that you’re serving and that you’d expect to protect you. But the film also tries to provide possible solutions and points out that the hierarchical military judiciary system is the first thing to blame, at least for the lack of punishment of perpetrators and due processing.
“The Invisible War” is a difficult film to watch, but it’s a film that by its very nature demands to be seen. The information it provides is very substantial and if anything it should serve as a great warning piece for any person that is considering to enlist. I’m sure that this occupational hazard will not be included on their recruitment forms.
The Invisible War on IMDb