In class today, we watched the film “The Invisible War.” I have already seen many people writing about it on this blog, and normally I would try to write about something different, just to break things up a little. However, I have to say that I really can’t avoid writing about this film, simply because it hit me on such a personal and visceral level. It seems entirely overdone to say that I “was raised in a military family” but in complete honesty, there is no other way for me to say it. Both on my mother’s and my father’s side, there have always been a plethora of military personnel going back for generations. Of the seven children of my father’s family, three served in the military, including my father himself. For the seven children of my mother’s family, five of them served, including my mother. Out of all of the cousins I have resulting from these huge families, I honestly cannot say how many of them served or are currently serving in the military. And I have never heard anything in my life but how wonderful it is, how much of a honor it is. I won’t say that I’ve always known this was a lie, but I can say that I have learned over the years that it is not as rosy as my family has always claimed. However, after seeing this movie, I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that it was that bad. And it has made me question even more these grand lies about “serving our country” that I have been fed my whole life.
Yet this is not some anarchist rant, advocating dismantling the military and spitting on members of the armed forces. I believe in nothing but the utmost respect for veterans, and I try to live by that belief in my day to day life. Yet I’m seeing now that the entire system is flawed, that it is built around protecting perpetrators and grinding victims down until they learn to keep quiet, or literally die in silence. Watching this film, I could barely contain my absolute rage, not just at those who committed such crimes against these men and women, but against military justice as a whole, if such a thing can be said to even exist. Because for me, these people were not abstracts, not even really strangers. I spent much of my childhood on Navy bases all over the country. Servicemembers were my family, my friends, my caretakers, my godparents, everyone I knew. And I know from a statistical standpoint, it is very likely more than one of them has been a victim of sexual assault, and yet it is not something I have ever heard spoken of. Even though I can say with almost complete certainty that it happened to at least one member of my family, it is not something that has ever been shared, and it is certainly not something that was ever brought forward to the chain of command. I cannot say for sure what I am even hoping to say with any of this, but I realize now, because of this film, that my family has such a prestigious military history because most of us have learned that lesson of silence so well that it is ingrained even in how we raise our children. And, even more horrifying, based again on statistics, it is likely that in my family as well as victims, there have been perpetrators. And due to this flawed system our military is based off of, I will never know the truth about either.