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“What if violence against women is not a by-product of war, but rather a major cause of it?” — a question posed by Leith Greenslade in a 2014 article

Hearing sexual assault victims recount their attacks is heartbreaking. Hearing story after story from U.S. soldiers like Kori Cioca, who was beaten and raped by her Coast Guard supervisor, or Trina McDonald, who was drugged and raped multiple times during her service in the Navy, is horrifying. Learning that these women are part of an estimated 500,000 women who have been sexually assaulted during their time in the U.S. military is shocking and overwhelming. The documentary The Invisible War, which I saw repeatedly in 2012 with students, colleagues and members of the various communities I’ve served, received a 99% thumbs up from the critics, and it definitively confirms the pervasiveness of the abominations across the military services.

Noting the “upwards of 20,000 victims a year” figure that the documentary delineates, one is forced to consider the allegations swirling around celebrities and representatives in a new light*, I believe. And special consideration should be given to poor and under-served souls who are routinely raped in some form during their blue collar working day, neglected now — worldwide– while high profile figures figure prominently in the news. To say nothing about the shockingly high numbers of inmates of both genders who are raped regularly in our highly populated prisons.

*Bill Blum’s take on Al Franken at the bottom of a recent article is worth taking in on this score; it should be noted that virtually ALL the high profile figures who have been subjects of recent sex scandals have supported our wars.

Military malfeasance accounts for a great deal of the rape which goes unpunished in the armed services, but the fact that ALL rapes are — relatively speaking — rarely discussed should be alarming to one and all… but is not. There are lots of folks devoting many heartbeats to rescuing and treating women who have been assaulted, but no correlation is made between our military’s abominations abroad and rape across the board.

For me, I’m not surprised respecting the incidence of rape in the U.S. military; it’s easy to see how callousness toward life in general can grow into disrespect for others sexually. Ditto for the tolerance exhibited with regard to perpetrators… who often are given the opportunity — as priests are in some realms — to re-assault their victims. And I’m not shocked at how those who are traumatized are not treated decently in so many cases. For me, it’s all part and parcel of the same dynamic.

The documentary cited does not take an anti-military position. In fact, almost all the survivors said they did not want to participate in the film if it was anti-military. The men and women had “incredible experiences” while they were in the military, apparently. They were planning to make it a career; in almost all cases they joined because they thought it was important to serve their country. And following revelations which forced them to distance themselves from idealistic yearnings and any association with the military… many of them still wish they had a career in the armed services.

But virtually nothing has changed in the military regarding the frequency of sexual assault since the film was first shown. Not any more than things have changed in our prisons or with regard to the proliferation of spousal abuse. Why? There’s no lack of documentaries on the subjects, and there are certainly plenty of professionals devoting their lives to helping the public to self-educate, or assisting victims with recovery, etc.

Because well-meaning folks are not making the causal connections.

Valeria Ruselli is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at aptosnews@gmail.com.

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Documentaries like these may assist in social awakening but the actual power lies with activists and educators who must analyse the gravity of the problem and make military or non – military feel the pinch …..