Tag Archives: Leon Panetta

Because Thoroughly Tackling the Topic of Military Sexual Assault is No Small Feat: The Invisible War is Nominated for an Oscar

If you had told me ten years ago that rape in the U.S. military would become a mainstream topic, I’d have laughed at you.

Decade after decade, after each sexual assault scandal such as Tailhook or the Air Force Academy, politicians would trumpet their outrage and military officials would swear they’d muster reform, like a hardened criminal making desperate, insincere promises to a parole board.

In 2003, while Miles Moffeit and I were researching for,  “Betrayal in the Ranks,” our three-part series about military sexual assault and domestic violence, reporters in Kentucky called us with a cautionary tale of how their publisher pulled a similar story of theirs, axing it because the U.S. had invaded Iraq and it seemed unpatriotic to call the military to task.

Thankfully, that love affair is over.

invisible warLast January, a film premiered at Sundance called “The Invisible War.” It tackled the crisis of sexual assaults within the U.S. military and dissected it with a painstaking, surgical attention to detail.

The filmmakers invited me to attend the premier because I’m interviewed in the film about my work covering the issue of military sexual assault, primarily the series I coauthored with Miles called “Betrayal in the Ranks.”

Afterward, I listened to all the talk from the politicians and the military officials, inwardly rolled my eyes, and waited for the apathy to once again roll in.

Well, halleluiah, my cynicism has been smacked down.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta viewed the film on April 14, 2012.  Two days later, Panetta ordered that all military sexual assault cases were to be handled by senior officers, ostensibly taking such cases away from potentially biased commanders who wouldn’t want the notoriety or disruption of a sexual assault investigation in their own unit.

Then over the summer, the Marines put together a new protocol for combating sexual assault. And just this month, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for this fiscal year. This time, it included reforms aimed at the issue of military sexual assault, including policies to prevent retaliation against those who report.

Meanwhile, the public and the media have flung themselves fully into the fray, backing “The Invisible War” with enthusiastic reviews and using social media to propel the issue forward.

Now “The Invisible War” has oh so deservedly been nominated for an Oscar.  As a result, I’m heartened that a whole new audience will now pay attention–and that someday, soldiering in the U.S. will no longer be associated with rape.

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What’s More Important: Rape of Tens of Thousands of Soldiers or Somebody’s Affair?

I wish everyone would calm down about the CIA adulterous scandal and become enraged over a much more important issue: sexual assault, including sexual assault in the U.S. military.

-This is what I’ve been thinking for several days now, and then someone did an excellent job of putting that into words by writing about the stunning documentary, “The Invisible War,” a film about the crisis of sexual assaults within the U.S. military, giving it proper context over the latest salacious story about Paula Broadwell.

I’m on the email list for director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering, the creators of that outstanding Sundance award-winning documentary, “The Invisible War,”, and they sent me the below link to the piece that ran Monday in the Huffington Post.  I’m interviewed in the film because of my work covering the issue, primarily the series I coauthored at the Denver Post called “Betrayal in the Ranks.”

So please, take the time to read the story, and then forward the link to a friend. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta needs to turn his attention to “The Invisible War” and the issues it exposes, not media hype about emails and affairs.

From The Huffington Post: “The real scandal is that this type of behavior — stumbled upon via highly questionable investigative practices — is what garners nonstop media coverage and glaring headlines while a real military sexual scandal, our U.S. military’s horrific rape epidemic, affecting tens of thousands of our service members (annually!!), goes unreported and ignored.” Read more.

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