January 25, 2012 1:04:00 PM
PARK CITY, Utah -- The Department of Defense estimates that more than 19,000 military men and women were sexually assaulted by fellow troops in 2010 while serving in the United States armed forces. At least 20 percent of servicewomen and 1 percent of men -- an estimated 500,000 troops -- have experienced sexual trauma while serving.
These troubling statistics motivated documentarian Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering to make "The Invisible War," a film that examines the epidemic of rape within the military, how it affects victims and why so few cases are prosecuted. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it is a contender in the U.S. documentary competition.
The statistics "were just so astonishing that at first we didn't believe it," said Dick, adding that he was equally surprised that no film had been made on the subject.
Through interviews with rape survivors and military officials, "The Invisible War" suggests that it's not just the violence and harassment that traumatizes victims, but the absence of impartial justice and personal retaliation they often experience after reporting the incident. A rape survivor's only judicial recourse is to report the attack to her commander -- even if he was the attacker -- and it's his decision whether to investigate and prosecute, regardless of the evidence.
"If they investigate it, and the investigator comes back and says, 'I've got a slam-dunk case. I can put this serial perpetrator behind bars,' the commander can, on his or her own, decide no, we're not going to send this case to court martial," Dick said.
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