Heartbreaking, sad, and infuriating, The Invisible War may be the most intense talking head documentary ever made. Tackling the highly uncomfortable topic of the epidemic of rape (“epidemic” is the only word that can be used when faced with the film’s sickening statistics) in the United States military, The Invisible War is a powerful call to action to fix the boys club that is the military, no matter what the ads say. When the possibility of rape is deemed an “occupational hazard” by your government, you know you have a problem.
Writer/director Kirby Dick, along with Amy Ziering, spends most of the film hearing the horrific stories of a group of women who were raped during their time in all branches of the military. Not only are most scarred for life and even suicidal at times, they have received no help whatsoever from their superiors, Veterans Affairs, or politicians. It doesn’t help when the man committing the crime is your superior. The most time is spent on Kori Cioca, who was not only raped, but hit so hard in the face that it broke her jaw. Her incident occurred in 2005, and she still has yet to receive any assistance because she fell two months short of the mandatory two years of service to get full benefits. She has been on a diet of soft foods and cannot be outside in cold weather ever since. That doesn’t even take into account the mental scars.
The Invisible War is a crushing indictment of a system that is way off the rails. Accountability is non-existent, and it’s ruining lives. We, as viewers, keep waiting for the tide to turn and for the women to catch a break. It never really happens, as the civil suit they’ve filed is under appeal after being struck down. Dick and Ziering prop the movie up with startling statistics (provided by the government, I should note) that indicate this problem will get worse before it gets better. We are told that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta viewed the film this year and two days later instructed all military commanders to hand over all sexual assault investigations to a higher-ranking colonel. I usually scoff at films being called “important,” but this one is. A must-watch, no matter how difficult it is.
Length: 93 Minutes
Rating: NR (contains strong language)
Theatrical Release: June 22, 2012 (Limited)
Directed by: Kirby Dick
Written by: Kirby Dick
Cast: Kori Cioca, Elle Helmer, Jessica Hinves, Hannah Sewell, Anu Bhagwati