TRAILER and REVIEW – The Invisible War

the invisible war

Sweet Merciful Zeus.

I’m not always entirely sure when Trigger Warnings are ‘required’ but this documentary certainly covers several incredibly upsetting topics in detail. Please be aware.

BLURB (from wikipedia)

An investigative and powerfully emotional documentary about the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the US military, the institutions that perpetuate and cover up its existence, and its profound personal and social consequences.

The Invisible War features interviews with veterans from multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces who recount the events surrounding their assaults. Their stories show many common themes, such as the lack of recourse to an impartial justice system, reprisals against survivors instead of against perpetrators, the absence of adequate emotional and physical care for survivors, the unhindered advancement of perpetrators’ careers, and the forced expulsion of survivors from service.

Interspersed with these first person testimonies are interviews with advocates, journalists, mental health professionals, active duty and retired generals, Department of Defense officials, and members of the military justice system. The film also includes footage, often shot by the veterans themselves, which documents their lives and continuing struggles in the aftermath of their assaults.


The Invisible War is hard to watch but I think invaluable. In a closed systems – such as the military – predators seem to thrive behind closed door; hidden behind the net of silence. By forcing this into the light – I fervently hope – conditions will change within the forces.

While the stories included here were heartbreaking and the responses from those in authority often utterly ridiculous; I found the section related to the cover up particularly and perhaps ghoulishly fascinating.

What makes decent people hide these terrible acts?  The institutional cover up – and it is just that, conspiracy theory language be damned – is difficult to deny or refute when faced with the facts and figures around sexual offence in the forces.

This documentary provides detailed information and graphs but the focus is on the women (and men*) involved – as individuals and as a group that has sought to serve but instead been victimized by their ‘band of brothers’.

A website – Not Invisible – has been created to offer resources to veterans.

MUSIC VIDEO – Mary J Blige – Need Someone


On imdb; the following note was included on the documentary page.

A rare example of a film actually influencing government/military policy, end credits state that “On April 14.2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, watched this film. Two days later, he took the decision to prosecute away from unit commanders.”

However, it was noted that “this is not enough.”

The preceding is a true statement, but can be misleading. Military Commanders still hold prosecutorial discretion, but they can no longer be in the unit where the alleged misconduct had taken place. An “outside, higher ranking colonel” would now hold prosecutorial discretion.

This film was written and directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering and Tanner King Barklow. The Invisible War  premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the U.S. Documentary Audience Award. The documentary has been the recipient of a Peabody Award and an Emmy Award for Best Documentary Feature and Outstanding Investigative Journalism. It was additionally  nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards.

*The film has been criticized for diminishing or failing to appropriately highlight men who have been raped or abused or suffered sexual violence in the military.

My personal take is that while male veterans were never expressly excluded by the filmmakers; the focus was absolutely on female victims/survivors.

I view this as a starting point though; it’s not a be-all and end-all – hopefully this will start a conversation that will focus on the issues experienced by veterans, irrespective of gender.


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