“The Invisible War,” a devastating documentary about the tens of thousands of sexual assaults that take place within the U.S. military every year, has already had an effect on policy even before its release on Friday.
Within days of seeing the film in April, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a crucial change in the way in which reported rapes will be investigated in the military – and he told one of the film’s executive producers that the screening was partly responsible for his decision….
“The Invisible War” collects the stories of dozens of rape and assault victims, most but not all of them women, who were attacked by fellow servicemen while on duty. Their stories tell of a military bureaucracy that protected the perpetrators and often ostracized or ignored the victims….
In April, Secretary of Defense Panetta viewed the film — and two days later, according to [producer Amy] Ziering, he held a press conference to announce changes in the military’s policy toward the prosecution of rapes.
Panetta changed the policy that the unit commander would decide whether to move ahead with the investigation and prosecution of reported assaults, a policy specifically identified in the film as placing the decision in the hands of commanders who work with, and are often close friends of, the accused.
Under the new policy, the decision will rest higher up the chain of command, at the level of colonel (or, in the Navy, captain).
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