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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Invisible War

Rape is rampant in the U.S. military establishment

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 13, 2012 -- This is one of those documentary films that makes me so angry I could just chew nails. This is because of the awful way the victims of sexual assault are treated by the military establishment, the terrible injustices, and the permanent damage done to these people's souls which is revealed. This is an excellent film which should be seen by anyone thinking about signing up for military duty (or their parents), or anyone who has the power to change the military.

It should be noted here that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta did see this film and he did make an important change to the military justice system because of it. More needs to be done, of course, but the Panetta story illustrates the power of this film to do some good.

I just happened to see this film on Veteran's Day. It brings home the hollowness of those bumper stickers about “supporting the troops.” That support doesn't go very far. It doesn't protect the troops from bad decisions about which wars are worth fighting and which are not (like the thousands killed and maimed for no good reason in Vietnam and Iraq). It doesn't extend to the point of getting adequate medical and psychological care for returning troops. It doesn't extend to doing enough to protect the jobs of veterans and finding jobs for returning veterans. It doesn't include protecting people in the military from sexual predators, either, and that is what this film is all about.

The bulk of this film is spent in interviews with rape victims, both women and men. The rapes, and the physical and psychological damage that results from the rapes, is bad enough, but the military justice system compounds that damage. Astoundingly, some of the women who reported being raped found themselves being prosecuted for adultery because their rapists were married. Of course, like any whistle blower, they also paid steep career prices for reporting rapes, from denial of promotions to demotions, to outright dismissal, without benefits, from military service. This sounds like something that would happen in an Islamic country, but it is happening in the United States of America. Support the troops, indeed.

When someone reports being raped, what happens to the rapist? Often nothing. In fact, in the cases shown in the film, several rapists not only were not prosecuted, they were actually promoted. They are free to rape again and again. Their victims bear the scars forever, but the rapist often bears no scars at all, and pays no price for his crimes.

How bad is this problem? Bad. About 20 percent of women in the military end up being raped while on duty. The percentage of men raped in the military is lower, but the number of men raped may actually be higher because there are so many more men than women serving in the military, and the male rape victims tend not to report the crimes.

The movie also quotes a statistic that the percentage of rapists in the military is about double the percentage of rapists in the civilian population. And why not? Rapists are more likely to get away with it in the military because prosecution levels are so low. Even if they are successfully prosecuted, their sexual assault record may not show up in their civilian criminal record. This allows them to prey on an unsuspecting public after their military career is over.

The film makes a convincing argument that the military justice system is grossly inadequate to handle all these rapes. What the film doesn't say is that the civilian criminal justice system doesn't do a very good job of prosecuting rapes, either. It has recently been revealed that there are up to half a million untested rape kits being held in police evidence rooms and crime labs around the country because rape is not a high priority in the system.

Watch this movie and see the damage done to men and women by violent sexual assault, and see if you don't think it ought to be a higher priority than it is. I think you'll have a different view about all these untested rape kits. This epidemic of rapes in military and civilian life needs to be taken a lot more seriously than it is. We need to get serious about stopping these rapes and putting these sexual predators in jail.

This film is meticulously put together by award-winning documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick (“Outrage” and “This Film is Not Yet Rated”). It features a number of network news clips (such as clips of the “Tailhook” scandal) to hammer home its point about the persistence of this issue. The victim interviews are moving and convincing. The heartless response of bureaucracy to the pleas of these men and woman is infuriating. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)