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Yesterday I drove to the Laemmle Theater in Santa Monica to watch "The Invisible War".  It was opening night for this documentary that won the Audience Award at the Sundance Festival.

This is the Sundance trailer;

I knew there was a rape problem in the military, but I was shocked by the magnitude, I was shocked by the culture of tolerance towards this hideous crime, I was shocked by the incompetence and the negligence at the highest levels of the military.

The problem is beyond what I could imagine and it is tragic in its consequences. It also  threatens our national security.

There is some standard solutions like taking away the rape investigation responsibilities from commanders, as SECDEF Leaon Panneta announced after watching the film earlier this year but I propose something that I think makes sense that nobody has talked about. More below.

This is the official trailer;

The numbers of rapes reported in the film and based on government studies is staggering.  We are talking of 500,000 women in uniform raped and almost no one ever punished.  We are talking of lives destroyed.  Lives of wonderful women (and men too BTW, thousands of men get raped every year and it has nothing to do with gays in the military), lives of young Americans who serve their country, even in war.

One of the most shocking revelations is how dysfunctional is the system in place under the UCMJ.  If you get raped you are supposed to report it to your commander.  It turns out that 25% of the women who get raped in the military are raped by their commander.

Those who do report the rape, more often than not, get accused themselves of such things as adultery or conduct unbecoming or other things.

We are talking of tens of thousands of mishandled rape cases and perhaps more of un-reported rapes given that many raped women quicly find out how the odds are stacked against justice.

My alma matter, the Air Force Academy, had it's share of rapes and does not come out very well on the film.

Certainly Leon Panneta's announcement of relieving commanders from rape investigations is a step on the right direction.  But it is just a step.

You can join the movement started by the film producers; Invisible No more.  I joined already, hopefully it will take off.

But there is one more thing that I want to bring up.

Although, according to the government figures in the film, 15% of men in the military had a record(?) of sexual assault before joining (twice the proportion in the civilian population) I believe that there must be at least 50% of men in uniform who would not tolerate this and would be very uncomfortable serving with a man that views women as preys.

I hope that everyone in uniform is ordered to watch this documentary and I hope that the men in uniform that are not rapist will get as incensed as I was by the stories and facts presented.  And I hope they organize to rid the service from these predators and to help their female colleagues who get raped.

Perhaps some servicemen who find this whole thing abhorrent and even detrimental to national security will start organizing in their units to make it clear that they will not tolerate and that they will ostracize anyone who would or even condone it.

I know there is a culture of machismo in the military.  Nothing wrong with that.  But I believe that being a "macho" does not mean that you would rape or stand by while this happens.

Only a cultural change will work in the end.  I remember back in the 70s when the service academies accepted women there was many who opposed this.  As a matter of fact I remember that there was a time when it was open and sick;

Rape in the Air Force;

There have been no investigations of cases before 1995 because the USAFA did not keep records of sexual crimes from 1976-1996, the first twenty years of women being a part of the community. It could only have been worse during that time; the mother of the female cadet, herself an alumnus of the USAFA and a 20-year veteran of the Air Force reported that as a student at the academy in the late 1970s, dozens of administrators and students wore yellow hats emblazoned with “LCWB” (Last Class Without Bitches), representing the last all-male graduating class of 1979. A career Air Force General, she reported that the staunch bastion of “the good old boys” has been maintained, as she frequently sees LCWB hats, as well as the acronym written on signs and on license plates at academy sporting events. She reported being told “tough, deal with it” when she asked an adult male to take down a LCWB sign at a pep rally. Such widespread apathy from males involved with the academy is shamefully appropriate at an USAFA so divorced from reasonable cultural standards.
But I believe that "The Invisible War" documentary can start the process and we can all contribute one way of the other.  

We need women in uniform (and gays) more than we need faster planes or more submarines.

Originally posted to Shockwave on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 04:17 PM PDT.

Also republished by RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, Invisible People, Military Community Members of Daily Kos, Netroots For The Troops®, and DKos Military Veterans.

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