The Invisible War

Art & Culture

Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War is arguably one of his most shocking documentaries to date. The film investigates a vastly growing epidemic in the US military – rape and sexual harassment.

The documentary looks at a number of cases involving men and women who have been the victim of violent sex acts whilst serving for their country. These brave veterans share their harrowing experiences and how difficult they have found their ordinary lives to be since. Most shocking of all is just how these men and women are treated by firstly the military and subsequently the Government following their ordeals.

Dick’s documentary argues that this issue is almost accepted amongst the authorities with victims of rape and sexual harassment lacking any justice whatsoever – not forgetting that this is all taking place when offering themselves for their country. In one particular case, one victim’s attempts to report the sexual acts taken against her are completely ignored, as most are, and appallingly perceived as an ‘occupational hazard’.

It is a hidden crime as many victims are simply reluctant to release the details of their ordeal. The documentary also discovers that the majority of the cases that are reported are quite unbelievably classed as adultery against the victim as a result of producing a claim.

Furthermore, Dick explores the ways in which the US army and Government are attempting to reduce the number of rape and sexual harassment claims. The results are simply humiliating for the victims. The most insulting a poster campaign claiming men should “Ask her when she’s sober” with regards to relationships within the army.

Ironically, the advice given to victims who have suffered from sexual harassment or rape is to approach their commanding officer, despite statistics suggesting that it is generally the commanding officer that has caused the original offence. Subsequently, the victim has no one else to turn to without suffering some form of retribution.

Dick certainly covers all areas of this relatively disregarded issue including the mental, and in some cases, physical ramifications. It certainly forces the victims to consider their loyalty to their country after fighting for it. 

The statistics tell a chilling story by themselves. The reality is that one in five women in the US army face some form of sexual harassment whilst serving and that there has been a 35% increase of cases since 2011.

In typical Dick fashion, the director ends the documentary with an appeal for his audience to involve themselves in the fight against this issue. Originally released in 2012, The Invisible War received an Oscar-nomination in 2013 following an alternate ending that included yet more staggering facts and figures.

The documentary lacks the point of view of the assailants but you wonder why anyone capable of such acts would choose to offer themselves in front of camera. There still remains a question of why they commit such acts and why the authorities did so little to respond appropriately.

The Invisible War is a brutal and disturbing insight into an increasing concern in the US military and its message is clear and timely, succeeding in its attempts to truly shock and bring this epidemic to note.

Ross Webber