The Academy-Award nominated film The Invisible War is having an impact on the effort to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.
The documentary was cited by Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, in his opening remarks at last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to address the string of sexual assault allegations plaguing the military.
“All the questions the legislators asked were pretty much derived from the arguments we made in our film,” said the documentary’s producer Amy Ziering, who attended those hearings last week. ”It’s been extremely heartening to see the ways in which the film has influenced and informed the discourse that’s now exploding on this issue.”
The documentary takes a hard look at the alarming number of sexual assaults in America’s military, including gripping interviews with victims who go into excruciating detail about their ordeal.
An estimated 26,000 military servicemen and women experienced “unwanted sexual contact” last year. According to the Defense Department, only 3,374 of those assaults were reported and just 238 led to convictions –that’s less than 1%.
At last week’s Senate hearing, Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss blamed the cases of harassment on how “the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these things to occur.” Ziering adamantly disagrees.
“That’s a complete misunderstanding of what the problem is,” she said on Jansing & Co. Tuesday. ”This is an embedded serial predator problem. The behaviors of serial predators has very little to do with the fluctuation of hormones. It’s a highly calculated strategically thought through crime and that’s part of the reason why it’s not being effectively combated in the military.”
Tuesday the Senate begins marking-up legislation introduced by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that requires sexual assault allegations be handled by an independent entity with authority to pursue prosecution. Ziering said the bill is critical to tackling this military crisis because it “allows for adjudication of these crimes to be taken outside the chain of command which will lead to a higher prosecution of these crimes.”
The Pentagon found that men were the victims in nearly 14,000 of the estimated 26,000 assaults in 2012 – a fact not lost on Ziering.
“It’s important to note that this is not a crime that is gender based,” said Ziering, “It’s an equal opportunity assault. So often when people say this proves why women shouldn’t be in the military that’s completely false. Then men shouldn’t be in the military either because men and women are assaulted at almost exactly the same rate. “