Exposing "The Invisible War" on Women in the Military
Continued from previous page
Films like “The Thin Blue Line” and “Paradise Lost” have proven that documentaries can bring about justice and change lives. But overhauling the way the U.S. military handles rape — and getting it to comprehend, on a fundamental level, the tactics of perpetrators and the legitimate and serious needs of victims — is a massively tall order. Yet “The Invisible War” makes the need to do so both immediate and inevitable, and with equal measures of fury for the crimes it documents and respect for the military itself. These men and women loved their jobs so much, and just wanted to be exactly where they were. The poignancy of their faith makes the deep need for justice and reform all the more pressing. For them. For the new recruits pouring in, full of hope and ambition, every day. At a preview screening in New York recently, producer Amy Ziering explained, “We didn’t want to make an anti-recruiting poster for women.” And as director and writer Kirby Dick says, “This is not a partisan issue. Whether you’re on the left or the right, we can all agree that these women need to be protected.”
We are not just an audience. We are not passive witnesses, sitting in the dark and feeling sad while we eat popcorn. The great achievement of “The Invisible War” is that it’s a beautiful, difficult movie. But its genius is that it cannot help but shock us into action. It demands we change a system in which rape is seen as “an occupational hazard.”
Early in the film, as Navy veteran Hannah Sewell describes the violent attack that robbed her of her virginity, she says, “I was screaming. And nobody came to help me.” “The Invisible War” is another scream for help. And this time, it’s up to all of us to make sure that all our Hannah Sewells, all our men and women who have been sexually assaulted while serving our country and brutalized by an indifferent military, are at long last heard.
Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.