The Invisible War review – 'Rape in the US military is a secret epidemic' | Peter Bradshaw

The US military has become a rapists' playground, according to this brutally shocking documentary

Kirby Dick's brutally shocking documentary argues that rape in the US military is not an aberration, but a shameful secret epidemic. Victims are expected to suffer in silence and the issue is regarded as an occupational hazard and, by many, as a male officers' perk.

The film suggests that one in five serving female officers has been sexually assaulted – the male victim rate is unclear – and the women know that making a complaint will entail a humiliating and futile procedure in which the original experience will be made a thousand times worse: the complainant will always be disbelieved and can be subject to a Saudi-type counteraccusation of "adultery". And in its hamfisted attempts to tackle the problem, the US army has stigmatised the victims with a grotesquely insulting "Ask Her When She's Sober" poster campaign about dating, aimed at men – rather than taking action against violent serial predators who find the army a natural habitat.

The film argues that its system of justice makes the US military a rapists' playground because the commander is the only person to whom a case can be brought: he will almost certainly be acquainted with the assailant, he will have made a professional investment in the assailant's career and, in many cases, he will be the assailant himself.

What calibre of male personnel is the military attracting? And how will this dysfunction affect its relations with foreign civilian populations? It is a grim picture.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw Guardian film critic

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

The Invisible War review – sexual assault within the US military | Mark Kermode

Kirby Dick's Oscar-nominated documentary presents a harrowing picture of systematic abuse, writes Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

09, Mar, 2014 @12:05 AM

The Invisible War: the rape epidemic in the US military - video extracts

Kirby Dick's Oscar-nominated documentary exposes an epidemic of rape within the US military, with some 22,800 violent sex crimes alleged in 2011 alone

Kirby Dick

27, Sep, 2013 @11:00 AM

Article image
Fight the power: documentaries to unleash the activist in you
Children in poverty, rape in the military, mass murderers at large … Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker picks 10 powerful documentaries to galvanise you into action

Lucy Walker

02, Jan, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Dirty Wars – review | Peter Bradshaw
Jeremy Scahill's documentary about the shadowy world of the Joint Special Operations Command is an important story, writes Peter Bradshaw

Peter Bradshaw

28, Nov, 2013 @10:00 PM

Article image
Erase and Forget review – real-life Rambo finally gets his own movie
Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s tale of Vietnam war veteran ‘Bo’ Gritz gives a preposterous true story an alarming, haunting edge

Peter Bradshaw

02, Mar, 2018 @6:00 AM

The Invisible War: watch the trailer - video

Watch the trailer for Kirkby Dick's Oscar-nominated documentary on sexual assault in the US military

03, Feb, 2013 @3:44 PM

Article image
Rape in the military: exposing the shocking truth

The groundbreaking film The Invisible War exposes the shocking level of sexual abuse against women in the US military. Its concerns about rape are echoed in the UK

Alexandra Topping

29, Oct, 2012 @8:00 PM

Article image
Difret review – the true story of a rape victim who fought back
This Ethiopian docudrama recreates the game-changing legal case involving a 14-year-old who shot her kidnapper

Leslie Felperin

05, Mar, 2015 @10:15 PM

Article image
Plot for Peace review – Intriguing documentary about South Africa's secret history
This is the fascinating story of the wheeler-dealer Frenchman Jean-Yves Ollivier, who might have stepped out of a Frederick Forsyth novel, writes Peter Bradshaw

Peter Bradshaw Guardian film critic

13, Mar, 2014 @9:30 PM

Article image
The Rape of Recy Taylor review – vital story of a woman who fought back
When Taylor was raped in Alabama in 1944, she refused to be silent. Nancy Buirski’s documentary gives her story a larger, tragic social context

Peter Bradshaw

24, May, 2018 @9:00 AM