Sexual assault in the military is a critical issue that strikes at the heart of force readiness, morale, and significantly erodes trust between servicemembers. The pervasiveness of the problem and the systematic burden placed on the victims is alarming.
Since this is Academy Award month, I've decided to focus on Oscar-nominated documentaries, with one ringer to lighten the tone of these mostly-serious films. However, I can't let the moment pass without putting in a good word for a film that went all but unnoticed in theaters last fall.
In the 22 years since the Tailhook scandal, we have witnessed a cycle: scandals of sexual violence within the military, the revelation of abuse of power, and then congressional hearings during which the military promises to do better. Rinse and repeat. Our military members deserve better.
Those veterans returned home to a bleak landscape of flashbacks of rape, post-traumatic stress, and displacement. These are brave, courageous people, survivors of military sexual assault, and I am committed to helping them rebuild their lives.
While sexual violence in the U.S. military is not a new problem, the widespread media coverage, growing awareness and sense of urgency to stem this epidemic gives us hope that now is the time to end this human rights abuse.
VAWA fails to address a population notably vulnerable to sexual violence: military personnel. VAWA can and should serve as tool for empowering them just as it does for members of other culturally unique communities.
The Invisible War is a brave attempt to change the culture of rape in our armed services. But make no mistake, in talking about the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, the film is talking about America at large.
It is not surprising that the decision to lift the ban preventing women from serving in combat led immediately to widespread debate regarding the implications of the change for the military and for our society.
Without a doubt, sexual assault crimes across the branches of our armed forces are occurring with shocking regularity. In order for practical changes to take hold and be effective, they must be accompanied by a universal culture change.
I've been an advocate working in the movement to prevent violence against women for many years, and I don't think I've ever seen a film move the needle on a social issue as quickly and decisively as The Invisible War.
We must insist that as Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel would meet with military rape survivors, describe a zero tolerance plan and show the world how the Obama administration will combat -- and win -- the invisible war against military rape.
With 2012 closing, some are ready to declare a new Year of the Woman. Apparently, the first one did not do the trick. The anemically aspirational "Year of Whoever" trope reminds us how far whoever still has to go, having exceeded our self-defeatingly low expectations.
The fact that this story isn't being tweeted, blogged, and commented on daily in the mainstream media is more shocking than a sex scandal involving consenting adults, no matter how powerful the people are that are involved.
In an interview, Secretary Panetta admits to Natalie Morales that sexual assault and an inadequate disciplinary process for sex crimes are endemic problems that the military has been 'sweeping under the rug' for decades.
At both conventions, political leaders took to the stage with everyday Americans who, for various reasons, put their support behind one candidate or the other. But we didn't hear from anyone like Jessica Hinves, who was raped while serving in the military.
The Invisible War reveals how the military disciplinary process has fostered a culture in which sexual assault against a victim on active duty is considered an "occupational hazard" of serving in the U.S. armed forces.
We cannot undo the harm done but for the sake of those brave enough to come forward, we can move forward as a society. What Sandusky and his enablers did was on them -- how we respond to help victims is on us.