Huffpost Entertainment
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Annie Stein Headshot

Military Style

Posted: Updated:

I was all set to go full tilt fashion fluff with this blog entry, with pictures, great quotes, research, the whole magilla! After all of the seriousness and reveals, I felt it was high time for a little old fashioned fashion fun. That is until yesterday's afternoon activity changed my plan.

One of the primary reasons I went to the screening at Soho House of The Invisible War, an academy award-nominated documentary about rape in the military, other than the fact that I love and am always happy to go to Soho House, is because I know and respect the producer Amy Ziering's sister, Rosanne, a social activist/philanthropist who has a nonprofit for the benefit of foster youth. I also said yes because my friend Pamela invited me and I try to support my friends' events as much as I can because it's such a great feeling when your friends show up for a cause you put your heart into.

Google The Invisible War produced by Amy Ziering and directed by Kirby Dick, immediately. It is bone chilling. Call anyone you know and ask to get a copy of this documentary. This issue, I beg of you, needs everyone's attention now, because it's going on right now. Michele Obama and Joe Biden, champions of Vets and military families, need to see this movie if they haven't already.

Sadly, before yesterdays screening, I personally gave little to no thought about rape in the military. That was a hard sentence to type after yesterdays awakening. But it was not on my radar, on the list of things I am proactively concerned about, that I pray about, not as diligently as I should in both areas I know. And, quite frankly, I wasn't looking for another abusive condition to be upset about.

The facts alone are staggering; Fifteen percent of all military personal get raped by a fellow soldier or a commanding officer over the course of their military careers. Amy Ziering puts the true percentage closer to twenty percent counting all of the non-reported rapes. Those are the ones where the victims besides, being sexually violated and traumatized, are too frightened of the repercussions to come forward. Call them the silent and scared. It is the stories, though, that get you.

The movie starts out with a montage of black and white ads beckoning girls into the military. With happy faces and tidy hair-dos, pretty, wholesome female Americans' show off the sleek skirts and neat caps of different military branches. Wide smiles and proud stances, lipstick fully inside the lip lines, these women are the epitome of Military Chic. One is primed by the well shot black and white nostalgia. It portrays the whole goodhearted pride and belief in the America that we all hunger for. We then meet the women of today. They are shot up close and personal, saying hello to us. They share the hopes and dreams they had for their time in the military and why they chose to enlist. Talking head interviews interspersed with old photos and video clips help the women tell their tales. One girl, a big girl with short blond hair and wide set eyes, was fourth generation Navy. Growing up there was no question that she would carry on the family tradition. Her father was interviewed with tears running down his cheeks. With chin quivering he told of the betrayal he felt by the Navy, his guilt over urging her to enlist and promising her that the Navy would take care of her, while his daughter told of how her dream descended into a violent and horrific nightmare the night her commanding officer burst into her quarters, slammed her up against the wall and shoved himself into her from behind. The last thing she says before the camera leaves her face is "I am still a virgin because I was raped." This is said as a prayer or a plea and from a voice that's still in shock.

Each woman (and man too... rape is not gender exclusive) interviewed told the story of when and how they were raped by either a fellow soldier or commander. Each traumatically and emotionally went back there yet again, to the scenes of being sexually violated, in order to help tell this story and hopefully stop this epidemic.

It cannot be changed until the military system of justice is changed. Crimes in the military are tried in military courts with judge, jurors, prosecuting and defense attorneys all coming from the military. And that is the cold, hard, very frightening reality of this situation. Rape has been the military's dirty big secret for years. One victim in the film says "civilians think this is a military problem" as her lawyer goes on to explain why it is all of our problem. These rapists having gotten away with it in the service continue to rape once they are out of the service and living amongst us, the unsuspecting civilians. Only now after all that military training and protecting, they are even bigger, stronger and bolder rapists.

If ever an organization wanted to give the Catholic Church a run for its money in sweeping things under that filthy carpet, it would be the military. Just like the Church officials, the military officials don't want to bring shame or embarrassment on their good name. They would much rather close rank, protect the big boys and feed the victim to the fish, the way they've been doing for years.

What the movie shows so poignantly, brilliantly and wordlessly throughout, is how rape really is akin to death. It allows us to see for ourselves in the physical features, gestures, and body language that shout to us the extent of the damage. A home video of one girl the day she joined the Marines, shows a bright face with blue eyes full of promise and a young body, round, still clinging to left over baby fat but holding the promise of the shapely woman to come. As she shares with us the terrors that wake her up screaming most nights, we focus on black eyes filled with sadness and despair and a body that has swelled into layers upon layers of self protecting pounds.

Here is the bottom line; we are sending young women and men off to help protect our country without protecting them. Who has time to be frightened about being shot in Afghanistan when one is scared senseless of her (or his) commanding officer walking into the room after one too many beers and grabbing her from behind?

As a mother I couldn't help driving home from the screening rolling the "what if's" through my mind. What if my sixteen year old, who's no fan of school, decided college wasn't for her and wanted to join the Navy instead? Names and faces of other girls and boys I've watched grow up flashed through my mind as the utter sickness of this situation propelled me home to hit these keys. This is our military. Its task is to protect us from harm. These are all of our kids. We need to protect them from our military. Please. It's our duty.