ACTION ALERT: The Invisible War: The Pentagon's 'Rape Problem'
January 25, 2012 Anu Bhagwati / SWAN (Service Women's Action Network)
A new film, "The Invisible War," has spurred Representatives Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) to form the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus to "provide a bipartisan forum for all Members of Congress to learn about the problem, work with the Department of Defense to shape policy and create legislative solutions that improve Servicemember morale and welfare."
The Invisible War: Anu Bhagwati / SWAN (Service Women's Action Network)
WASHINGTON (January 24, 2012) -- This weekend marked an important step toward the elimination of sexual assault in the military. The Invisible War, a documentary film featuring the stories of survivors and the work of SWAN and other advocates, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
SWAN staff provided technical assistance in the development of the film and attended the premiere. Oscar-nominated Director Kirby Dick (Outrage, Twist of Faith) told the press that the work he did on this film consisted of "the most intense series of interviews [he had] ever been involved with."
The film opened two days after a speech by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta [See video below] on military sexual assault and his plans for more vigorously addressing it. SWAN immediately responded, noting the shortfalls of the proposed steps.
In May, SWAN will convene the first ever Summit on Military Sexual Assault to take our collective voices directly to Congress and the White House. We will include survivors and their families, advocates, policymakers, legal and civil rights experts, and members of the media to demand change and shed light on the military sexual assault crisis. Please save the date (May 17th and 18th, 2012 in Washington DC) and join us! Expect more updates soon.
The film has also spurred Representatives Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) to form the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus in Congress. This caucus will "provide a bipartisan forum for all Members of Congress to learn about the problem, work with the Department of Defense to shape policy and create legislative solutions that improve Servicemember morale and welfare."
SWAN has worked extensively with Reps Turner and Tsongas on H.R. 1529, the "Defense STRONG Act," which had portions signed into law by President Obama last December.
The filmmakers and those featured have created an online petition at Change.org asking the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard "Buck" McKeon and the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Carl Levin and the leadership of the House and Senate to support the STOP Act (HR 3435) and the Holley Lynn James Act (HR 1517) in 2012. SWAN helped to draft and introduce both HR 1517 and HR 3435. We ask that you sign this petition, and share with as many people as possible!
SWAN is proud to support this work and grateful that in upcoming months, thousands of people will see the film. As this film raises further awareness about military sexual assault, we hope that many newcomers will join our movement to end rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.
Anu Bhagwati is the Executive Director of the Service Women's Action Network.
SWAN is a human rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN's vision is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault. SWAN also seeks to reform veterans' services on a national scale to guarantee equal access to quality health care, benefits and resources for women veterans and their families.
Why This Is Important Kori Cioca / SWAN
As a child. I'd always wanted to serve my country so joining the U.S. Coast Guard was a dream come true, I loved the discipline, the camaraderie and helping others. There was just one problem -- my supervisor.
From the moment I came under his charge, he singled me out for abuse and harassment. My appeals to his superiors fell on deaf ears, and one night he entered my room, hit me so hard he dislocated my jaw, and then raped me.
When I stumbled out from my bunkroom to report the incident, I was told by my commander (a close friend of my assailant) that I was a liar and "disrespectful non-rate." Five years since the incident, I am no longer in the coast guard and my jaw still has not received surgery while my assailant continues to enjoy a successful military career.
The real horror though is that my story is not unique. I am one one of hundreds of thousands of men and women who've been raped by fellow soldiers while serving their country and then disbelieved and exiled. All too often, we ourselves are punished for reporting, and eventually, despite laudable careers, discharged.
According to Department of Defense estimates, over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010 alone. Over the past 5 decades, more than 500,000 U.S. Soldiers have been assaulted.
Even worse, unlike the civilian world where rape victims can turn to an impartial police force and justice system for help, in the military, rape victims can only appeal to their command -- a move that is all too often met with foot-dragging at best, and harsh reprisals at worse.
As a result, only eight percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted, and far less result in significant prison time.
We, as a society, can no longer allow this criminal epidemic to continue unabated. We are losing too many good soldiers to an unjust system.
Please join us in asking the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard "Buck" McKeon and the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Carl Levin and the leadership of the House and Senate to support the STOP Act and the Holley Lynn James Act in 2012.
These two bills would be the first steps in attempting to alleviate the suffering of military sexual trauma survivors and your overwhelming support of this legislature will send a clear message to the Department of Defense that it needs to take immediate measures to take the decision to investigate and prosecute rape crimes out of the hands of commanders.
Thanks for caring, Kori Cioca
To find out even more about military sexual assault, Kori's story, and what you can do to help, go to: www.invisiblewarmovie.com
Secretary Panetta's Comments on Sexual Assault Prevention Uploaded by MarineForcesReserve1
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 18, 2011)- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's announced four new initiatives to address and prevent sexual assault against members of the military. He called the number of sexual assaults among the military "unacceptable" and noted a zero tolerance policy saying, "One sexual assault is one too many." Video courtesy of the Department of Defense.