he Department of Defense estimates less than 14 percent of military members who have been sexually assaulted actually report the assault. With more than 3,000 reported cases in 2011, that means something like 19,000 members did not report being sexually assaulted.
These numbers include both women and men. Anyone can be victimized in the military. One study suggests that as many as 20,000 men were sexually assaulted in 2009 alone. Kirby Dick’s film, The Invisible War, follows some of the victims as they try to remake their lives.
The filmmakers found their subjects by creating a Facebook page and inviting victims to share their experiences. After being inundated with eerily similar stories of “brutal assault followed by ostracization and isolation,” the filmmakers interviewed 70 current or former military personnel and narrowed those who would be in the film down to two dozen.
Unlike civilians, military members live in a closed culture, one that is more secretive than many may want to believe. Rats are not tolerated in close quarters. Sucking it up is what you do when you’re in pain. And many men in the service continue to believe that women have no place anywhere in the military, let alone in combat roles. Of course, the DOD does its best to keep up the appearance of good order and discipline within the ranks by hampering outside investigations and doing little to punish perpetrators.
It’s a significant problem and something even the biggest, most cold-hearted skeptics should take seriously. How seriously? Consider that the Veteran’s Administration spent over $900 million on the military survivors of sexual assaults in 2011 alone.
Kirby Dick’s documentary The Invisible War screens at the University Center Theater Thu., Nov. 29, at 7 PM. Free.