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.


Peter Bradshaw Guardian film critic

The GuardianTramp

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