More than one in five women veterans of the United States armed forces faced some sort of sexual assault during their service. When including calculations of unreported assaults based on Defense Department estimates, some half a million women service members have suffered at the hands of an assailant; nearly 100,000 women were assaulted just since 2006. Yet blaming the victim combines with frequent cover-ups and a self-contained justice system to prevent widespread accountability for alleged offenders.
A new award-winning documentary opening this month sheds light on the issue of rape in the military, and it’s already had an impact on policy — though not enough to satisfy the filmmakers. “There’s not enough deterrent right now in the military,” said Amy Ziering, who produced “The Invisible War,” at a screening at the Netroots Nation 2012 conference. “Once that gets in order, we’re confident things will change.”
The film followed more than a dozen female and male veterans who’d faced sexual assault, vividly airing the toll it has taken — struggles with post-traumatic stress, the ill-effects on their loved ones, and the tremendous impact that the betrayal of their trust had on their own lives, often incurring suicidal feelings and attempts. Some of survivors banded together to file a lawsuit, but that case was dismissed, the documentary reported, on the grounds that the service members cannot sue the military for grievances that are considered “incident” to military service. Rape, it seems, was one such occupational hazard.
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