Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Invisible War

Watching American shows on television here in India, despite the delayed relays, tell you much more than How Ted Mosby met his Children’s Mother, or how Sheldon Cooper, Howard Wolowicz, Rajesh Koothrapalli and Leonard Hofstadter make the world of nerds a much more charming propensity than the world otherwise believes. It also tells you much more than the NYPD’s top lady cop and her writer-partner catching murderers, and much more than the FBI’s White Collar Crimes division forging a bond with an ex-Con to catch High Profile criminals. You’re probably wondering what the circumlocution is all about. Let me cut to the chase. I once watched an episode of Lie to Me, whose premise was similar to a documentary film that is quite the rage now –The Invisible War. Built around the sordid reality of military rape, both of these motion-picture depictions exposed the United States of America’s dark underbelly.

“Support Our Troops” has been a big phrase in US politics. But really, should anyone support troops that indulge in rape and then disgusting cover-ups to keep things under wraps? The Department of Defence estimates that over 19,000 women and men were assaulted in 2010 alone. Around 500,000 women and men have been raped or sexually assaulted since World War II, in the military ranks of the United States of America. Nearly 80 per cent of survivors never report for fear of retaliation and intimidation. Though there is a zero-tolerance policy in place on paper, there is absolutely no explanation for why there are sexual predators and offenders in the military. Why does this happen? It turns out that unit commanders have the full and unfettered discretion to refuse to move forward with a case.

The easiest trick in the playbook is to blame the victim and let the rapist walk. The inspiration behind the Invisible War was Helen Benedict, who reported on women soldiers on She put in extensive research on why soldiers take to rape. Several factors are involved – a military culture of misogyny and patriarchy to illegal occupations and soldiers who have been abused as children. Until there is a cut in the chain of command from the process of prosecution, and prosecutions culminate in penalties, rape will remain an integral part of military service.

In its reckless pursuit of war-mongering on the global front, the United States is forgetting the Invisible War that is reality to its many women in its army.

Written by Kirthi Gita Jayakumar

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