Critical Review of the ‘Invisible War’ Essay (Movie Review)

The documentary film largely addresses how the US military has been marred with the issue of rape. It is apparent that women soldiers are the worst victims of human rights violation presented in this movie.

The documentary highlights intensive research that has been carried out in the US military especially in regards to female victims who have undergone grueling experiences while serving in the US military.

From the film, it is cathartic and validating to report the trauma that women undergo in the hands of the US military.

According to the reports obtained from the US Department of Defense, an assault from an enemy is less likely to affect a female soldier in the US military compared to the chances of being raped by a female colleague.

This implies that the greatest threat that female soldiers face while in line of duty is the possible rape from their rogue male counterparts.

However, it is surprising that the Department of Defense has done very little to avert the bad experience that female soldiers go through while serving in the army (Parrish par. 5).

Close to 20,000 sex crimes against women serving in the military were reported way back in 2010.

In addition, the film documentary highlights that about twenty percent of female soldiers in the US military have been raped or have experienced rape attempts while working close with their male counterparts.

Age also seems to be an issue of consideration when it comes to rape ordeals that women face while in the US military.

For example, the documentary observes that female soldiers who are within the ages of 18 and 21 years are highly likely to be raped compared to those who are above 22 years. In any case, more that 50% of the rape victims among female soldiers are aged between 18 and 21 years.

Nonetheless, the documentary does not explicitly explain the extent of rape and other forms of human rights violation that women over the age of 22 undergo. It is possible that rape ordeal is the worst form of human rights violation that female soldiers face in the US military.

Male soldiers are also part and parcel of the statistics of rape cases that are dominant in the US military. However, the number of men being raped is rather small in comparison to all the rape cases combined.

The reports in the documentary indicate that only one percent of the male soldiers have been reporting rape assaults at least every year. For instance, close to 20, 000 men underwent sexual ordeals before the close of the year 2009.

In order to solidify the claim, one male victim of sexual assault has also been interviewed in the film. Again, the interview and even the reports presented in the film documentary do not categorically classify how these men are sexually assaulted.

It is imperative to mention that one of the major threats to human rights in the US military has been homosexuality. There are soldiers who are sexually molested by culprits of the same sex. As such, gays and lesbians have thrived in the military for a considerable length of time.

If the documentary could explicitly categorize the nature of sexual assaults experienced by either male or female soldiers, then it could be easy for the audience to understand the actual essence of the ‘invisible war’

The level of prosecution is still below par according to the statistics obtained from the criminal justice system with specific reference to the cases emerging from the US military. There are several victims who do not report sexual ordeals that they experience on a regular basis.

It is indicated that over 80% of sexual assault cases go unreported. However, the documentary does not explain reasons why victims are adamant or unwilling to make their cases open to the public. Perhaps, they may be threatened by the culprits or even be afraid of being socially stigmatized.

The documentary could have shed additional light on the threats and stigma that often accompany sexual-related ordeals. It is pertinent to understand that cases related to human rights violation are very sensitive and therefore, should be handled with great care.

It is not just adequate to report about this type of invisible war without offering the much needed solution to the challenge.

The documentary also highlights that successful prosecutions amount to less than 10 %. This implies that there is till loose link between the US military service and the US Department of Defense in regards to human rights violations that take place.

If prosecutions against offenders are not taken with keen interest, the vice within the military may still persist. As a matter of fact, sexual assault cases are not new in the US military. It is just that the documentary appears to be among the very first avenues where the bad experience has been aired.

In addition, it is also most likely that the challenge facing female soldiers in the US military is yet to be fully addressed by the concerned authorities.

It is not clear whether the US department of Defense is ready to handle the menace once and for all. In other words, the goodwill to prosecute offenders seems not to be in place.

From the documentary, we also get to learn that most of the perpetrators are within the higher ranks in the military. Junior officers are hardly involved in sexual assault cases, and if any, they are very minimal.

The documentary also reports that the external criminal justice systems are hardly made us of when carrying out prosecution of offenders. Why should the military service avoid an independent criminal justice system? Are there fears that external prosecutions could be successful?

Or is justice to the victims not a priority in the US military service and the US Department of Defense? These are terse questions that have not been addressed in the documentary at all.

It is apparent that the documentary was largely meant to bring out the issue of rape in the US military without exploring the several underlying aspects of the ‘invisible war’.

In regards to scanty prosecutions carried out within the military service, it is disheartening to learn that the elements of professional ethics and codes of conduct are hugely absent in the US military service.

It is vividly understood that senior officers and their allies always get away scot free without facing the right magnitude of judgment according to the crimes committed. Are there clearly defined professional codes of conduct within the military?

If so, why are they not being followed to the letter? The targeted audience to this documentary may be keen to ask and obtain answers to similar questions as they watch the film.

Unfortunately, the documentary does not address some of the most salient and pertinent issues emerging from the report.

In spite of the weaknesses evident in the documentary, there are also several strengths that can be clearly depicted in the movie. To begin with, the documentary makes use of statistics to support claims of sexual assault in the US military (Hlad par. 1).

There are very few catalogue of woes that can indeed match with the evidence presented in the documentary. The statistics have also been provided from variety of sources in order to affirm the state of the matter.

Hence, the documentary can be said to be both qualitative and quantitative in terms of providing evidence to the audience. Moreover, interviews have been used to solidify the facts and figures presented in the documentary.

For example, a US Coast Guard who used to formerly serve in the US military offers a powerful testimony on her experience while in the army. Her name is Kori Cioca. While still in the US military, she was physically abused and sexually assaulted by her immediate supervisor.

The victim did not expect such kind of treatment from the senior officer who did not seem to care about the trauma she would undergo after the ordeal. In a sharp turn of events, the supervisor concurred that he did not rape Cioca but mildly beaten her up.

Despite the magnitude of the matter, the supervisor was given a mild sentence because the rape claim was not considered by the internal prosecution at the military.

He only missed his pay for thirty days and was also restricted from operating within the military base for the same period of 30 days.

In order to confirm that she indeed went through a difficult time, her jaw was fractured to an extent that it could not be repaired. In addition, the medical report indicated that she acquired post-traumatic stress disorder after the rape ordeal.

Even after presenting her medical claims to the international prosecution system, it was not accepted. At least, this is a clear proof that most of the human rights abuses that female soldiers undergo when serving in the military are not given keen attention by the US Department of Defense.

It is also interesting to note that well wishers came out willingly to offset Cioca’s medical bills after they watched the Sundance screening of the film.

Her civil suit did not go through even after ending up as a plaintiff. In yet another interview with a victim of rape and physical violation, the documentary airs the grueling rape experience that Trina McDonald went through at Aleutian Islands in Alaska (Risen par. 2).

This was a distant Naval Operating Station. Before being raped, she was subjected to excess drugs. Her assailant was a military police officer.

Other similar rape cases have also been highlighted in the documentary. One surprising thing is that none of the victims obtained a fair hearing from the internal prosecution system.

When Leon Panetta, the then Secretary of Defense viewed the documentary film, he gave out a directive to senior commanders that all cases related to sexual violations be channeled to a colonel who is highly ranked.

In addition, a special unit for dealing with offenses on sexual violations was formed. This is deemed as one of the strengths of the documentary.

It managed to highlight and fully support claims of human rights violations in the US military service (Holden par. 2). Even though the vice may still be in place, the emerging cases have been definitely reduced to the minimum.

At this point, it is vital to mention that this documentary film does not go against the US military service.

The film documentary is particularly attempting to point out that the few bad elements in the military ought to be checked in order to save the image of the entire service bearing in mind that the services offered by the military are still integral in the face of the country.

The male or female soldiers who have found themselves in the hands of assailants at one time or another deserve better treatment even as they offer their services to the nation. Justice ought to be delivered to all victims of sex abuse in the US military (Dick par. 3).

Perhaps, in order to develop a vivid and critical reflection in regards to international human rights, it is paramount to emphasize that rape cases are not strange occurrences in our society.

If this is the case, why should it be perceived differently in the military? It is only proper if basic human rights can be upheld at all times irrespective of the social, economic or political status of the offender.

In summing up, the ‘Invisible War’ offers a succinct analysis and investigation of the paradox that exist in our society.

Whereas all soldiers hired in the US military are expected to uphold high standards of professional ethics, there are still rogue individuals who cannot protect human rights.

Nonetheless, if justice can be delivered to the victims, then it is without doubt that the US military will regain its reputation.

Works Cited

Dick, Kirby. The Invisible War. 2012. Web. 29th Oct. 2013. <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_invisible_war/>

Hlad, Jennifer. Marines release new plan to prevent sexual assault. 2012. Web. 29th Oct. 2013.<http://www.stripes.com/news/marines-release-new-plan-to-prevent-sexual- assault-1.181307>

Holden, Stephen. The Year of the Body Vulnerable. 2012. Web. 29th Oct. 2013.<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/movies/lincoln-and-amour-top-stephen- holdens-best-of-list.html?ref=movies&_r=0>

Parrish, Karen. Panetta Pledges to Hold Sexual Assault Offenders Accountable. 2012. Web. 29th Oct. 2013. <http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=66839>

Risen, James. Air Force Leaders Testify on Culture That Led to Sexual Assaults of Recruits. 2013. Web. 29th Oct. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/us/air-force-leaders-testify-on- culture-that-led-to-sexual-assaults-of-recruits.html>

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