The prevalence of sexual assaults in military is “heartbreaking,” said a documentary filmmaker.
The commentary from Ben Klay, the husband of a military sexual assault victim, brought tears to the eyes of both Democrats and Republicans at a press conference last week when he spoke about what his wife endured in the military prosecution system.
“It’s not surprising. It’s so heartbreaking,” said Amy Ziering, a filmmaker of the Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Invisible War.”
Many on Capitol Hill have credited the film for shining a light on the problem. “Ben [Klay] was himself a Marine, and an officer, he did two tours of duty in Iraq. To see a Marine break down like that and cry and say, ‘you know something has got to change,’ it’s incredible,” she said. A Pentagon report released last week exposed a 46% rise in the number of military sexual assaults reported in the past fiscal year.
Members of the military filed 3,553 cases of incidents between October 2012 and June 2013 compared to 2,434 reports during the same period the year before. The latest figure is also more than the total number of reports during the entire 2011 fiscal year.
However, the findings highlight only a small sliver of the problem. In anonymous surveys conducted by the Department of Defense, approximately 26,000 soldiers reported being sexually assaulted.
“The vast majority of men and women in the military do no report,” warned “The Invisible War” director Kirby Dick. “People do not feel like they’re going to get justice. That’s why we need real reform.” A bipartisan group of lawmakers support Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's proposed amendment to a defense bill, stripping military commanders of the power to rule on sexual assault cases. Under Gillibrand's amendment, which could reach the floor within the next two weeks, that authority would be given to military prosecutors.