Every American knows the feeling of pride in the U.S. military. Most have never felt ashamed of it. But a new documentary is guaranteed to induce that awful feeling.
Nominated for an Oscar, "The Invisible War" features a procession of women who enlisted to serve their country and ended up abused and abandoned. The statistics are depressing: Some 3,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2011, but the true number is probably closer to 19,000. But only 2 percent of these reported crimes end in a court-martial conviction for the rapist. And 36 percent of those convicted stay in the military.
"The Invisible War" explains how the military system of justice empowers criminals and victimizes victims. It also gives a horrifying picture of the effect on the women (and men) who have been assaulted by those they are prepared to die with and for. Some suffered professional retaliation; some suffered lasting physical injuries; and one tried to commit suicide.
A female general says: "It's akin to what happens in a family with incest. Because in the military when we're functioning in a cohesive unit, as brothers and sisters, you know the band of brothers and sisters, I mean we are family. When that bond of trust is violated, the wound penetrates to the very most inner part of one's soul, one's psyche."
The film provoked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to change the reporting rules for these crimes. It's a start -- but only a start.