The Invisible War is a documentary about rape within the US American military. There are interviews with mostly female officers of the various branches of the military who have been raped by their colleagues and by their bosses. The movie looks at the way these rapes are dealt with (or better, not dealt with), how widespread the whole thing is, what (mostly ineffectual) countermeasures are taken and how the victims (try to) deal with the events.
The Invisible War is important and very well made. But it certainly isn’t made for easy watching and if you’re triggered by the subject but your heart is set on watching, you should take every possible precaution. I cried my way through it.
I think and read a lot about rape culture and once you know it’s there, you start seeing it everywhere. And I mean everywhere. So, when you think about the rigid hierarchical structures and the general patriarchal nature of the military system, you imagine the worst when it comes to female recruits. And this film proves your worst fears to be absolutely true: wide-spread rape, threatening of the victims, cover-ups, lacking insurance for injuries that result from the assaults, victim-blaming counter-measures – you’d get your rape culture bingo card full in record time.
But it’s not only that this movie confirms things that you suspected anyway, there was also some (to me) new information. Like that the percentage of rapists is higher among men who join the military than among the civilian population – already at the point where they join. So, a man who wants to join the army is more likely to have raped than a man who doesn’t want to join the army.
Apart from the (amazingly well-researched) info that Kirby and Ziering provide, they give the victims of this practically institutionalized rape faces, voices, families, personalities. You see an army dad broken up about his daughter’s rape in the service, while she tries her best to convince herself that she’s still a virgin. You see a mother fighting for a normal life with a destroyed jaw (which she got because her rapist hit her that hard) that is not covered by her veteran’s insurance and fighting for normal intimacy with her husband which is nearly impossible. And so on. I have tears in my eyes just typing these things out.
And the worst part is that all of these women, they joined because they believed in the instititution “Army”, they wanted to join, they were convinced they did the right thing and they were utterly betrayed by not only their colleagues, but the instititution itself and then by the entire justice system. And it’s heartbreaking.
Summarising: If you have the stomach for it, watch it.