I have spent days agonizing how to write this diary, looking for the right hook to capture your attention and convince you to read further. I'd like to think that I've developed some street cred here at DailyKos and that my word is enough but I have seen diary after diary written on this topic over the last two weeks and they float down the recent list with handful of comments, a few dozen recommends that may or may not come soon enough to help it gain just a little more attention, and then the topic is forgotten. Just like these women have been forgotten.
Who am I talking about, you ask? Take a moment to watch this:
The Invisible War is a film about Military Sexual Trauma, MST. That's a fancy name that includes both sexual assault and sexual harassment but the film focuses on the former. I saw the film last Thursday at Netroots Nation. I walked in a cynical military wife, expecting to see a film that slammed our military, that told the stories of a few women that were the exception and not the rule. I thought this was a film from which I would be able to easily walk away.
I was so wrong.
This film won the 2012 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival for a reason - it is powerful, it is truthful, and it can make one hell of a difference not only in the lives of the women and men whose stories are shared but in the the lives of all our military, those who serve now and our future recruits.
You might be wondering why on earth this film hit me so hard.
It was the story of a young female Marine officer that first made me cry. I saw myself, a young high school graduate who applied to the service academies, believing that my path to the future was through military service. My life goals changed and I became a military wife instead but I remember that young woman very, very well. As I watched the film, I kept thinking that I could have easily been her - gung ho, eager, very smart, and sent to a dream assignment only to have it turn into a nightmare.
After those first tears, I kept dreading each next face. I was afraid I would see someone I knew. My husband has served with many women - some have been his commanders, some his fellow officers, and many have worked for him as junior officers and NCO's. About 20% of his ROTC class were women. So many of these women have been our friends. I wonder what stories they never shared or if they lucked out in the crapshoot. You see, according to the Service Women's Action Network, one in three women who serve in our military have been sexually assaulted. Maybe they were in the lucky 2/3rds. Maybe they weren't.
By the end of the film, I was in shock. The icing on the cake for me was yet another realization - I had been part of the problem. This takes a tad bit of explaining. When we're assigned overseas, we have a special TV station called AFN. We get to watch shows from back home but not the commercials. Instead, AFN creates it's own advertising, military style. We would hear about good Op-Sec or how to attempt to blend in to the local community and not be a stereotypical ugly American. AFN commercials were a joke among us all. There was hardly one we took seriously.
In this film, they showed a military training clip that was dead on an AFN commercial. It showed a young women who decided that it was okay to walk from her work to her tent, alone, without escort. Some idiot gives her some unwanted attention and she starts to run. She happens to run into two tall strapping young men who ask her if she is okay. When she explains what happened, they don't run to grab the potential sexual predator but kindly reprimand her for walking home alone. Of course, it was all her fault.
I just about hit the roof of that viewing room. This is the crap that we are using to tell our troops that there is Zero Tolerance for Sexual Assault. And I used to laugh at it, as if it was a joke.
I could have left that film feeling helpless and wondering what I could do. Instead, I left the room with a self-imposed to-do list. I can check item number one off my list - write a diary. I will be telling you about the rest of my to-do list at a later date, in future diaries. In the meantime, I have a to-do list for you.
- This film opens on June 22nd in four major cities - New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Hollywood. Buy your tickets in advance. Buy a ticket for a friend. If you can't afford a ticket and want to go, let me know. I'll see what I can do. If you live in DC - contact me! I will be going again and this time, I am taking my husband.
- If you belong to any progressive group and live in these cities, please go see this film together. Let them know today so that you can plan ahead... one week is plenty of time to pull this together. The better this film does in theaters on opening day, the more theaters it will see in the weeks to come.
- For those of you who don't live in those cities, check the schedule. Look for the film in Scottsdale, Denver, and Chicago on June 29th; in Brookline, Seattle and Tucson in July. If you don't see your city - call your local theater that is most likely to host indie films and ask when it is coming!
- If you know that this won't come to your town, you can still watch it. Host a screening- this can be in your house, at the local library, your neighborhood church, or at your community center. Your options are limitless! Show it multiple times! And then donate your copy to the local library so that even more people can see it.
- You can also sign a petition demanding accountability, join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #notinvisible, or join the Facebook community. Or all three!
Last but not least, recommend this diary. Don't do it for me. Do it for the brave women and men in this film who stepped up to share their stories and are trying to fix it so that future recruits don't have to live what they lived through. They are the true heroes in all of this.