“The officer bragged to his fellow officer friends that he had ‘bagged’ me. I got called up to a major’s office, and he charged me with fraternization and adultery.”
— An active-duty Marine, speaking of her rape, in “The Invisible War”
If there is a defining theme in all of the testimony in “The Invisible War,” the searing documentary film released thisweek about military sexual assault, it’s betrayal. An estimated 19,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place in the military last year. Every one of them represents a monstrous crime made much worse by the sense of betrayal that accompanied it. That so few victims — just one in seven — report these crimes underscores the utter lack of trust that pervades military culture.
This should be deeply alarming to the armed services, which have professed a “zero-tolerance” policy for years — but have little to show for it. Trust is critical to any team endeavor, but in the military it can be the difference between life and death. The idea of “having someone’s back” is borrowed from the warrior’s real-life lexicon. Without trust, nothing works in the military. And because it is experience that forms trust, if a soldier’s experience tells her that she will not receive support and justice if she is attacked from within her ranks, she ceases to be an effective team member and suffers overwhelming personal consequences. You have lost that soldier forever. Multiply her by 19,000, and the impact on overall readiness is profound.