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Documentary ‘The Invisible War’— Sexual violence in military endemic

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In Iraq or Afghanistan today, an American female soldier has a greater chance of being raped than killed by enemy fire. According to estimates by the Department of Defense, in 2010 there were 19,000 violent sexual assaults against women in the military. And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has estimated that the number of actual attacks is about six times the number reported.

The Invisible War, a documentary that spotlights this issue, will be shown this Saturday, Aug. 18, at 2 p.m. at the Little Art Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

According to the film’s website,, the film “exposes this epidemic, breaking open one of the most underreported stories of our generation…”

The film is appearing in Yellow Springs thanks to the efforts of one woman, Jackie Williams of Dayton, an Air Force veteran who was herself a victim of sexual assault. While her own assault took place more than 20 years ago, Williams is still healing, she said, and showing this film is a part of that healing. When Williams became aware of the film last year, she felt compelled to bring it to this area, even if she had to foot the $300 bill herself. And that’s what she was planning on doing, until the VFW in Dayton agreed to fund the showings.

“I’ve been needing to resolve some issues I’ve been carrying a long time,” Williams said.

The Invisible War was shown twice at the Neon in Dayton, and the Yellow Springs showing will be the last in the area.

The film includes “the powerfully emotional stories of several young veterans,” following their efforts to rebuild their lives after the assaults. It also includes interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress and “urges us all — military and civilian alike — to fight for a system that no longer forces our military to choose between speaking up and serving out country,” according to a press release.

Williams was a young mother in the Air Force Strategic Command when the assault took place in 1986, a time when there were far fewer women in the military. She did not report the offense, for all the reasons that many women don’t report similar attacks, a mixture of shame and fear of reprisal, which is especially strong in the military, she said. Williams later received treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Veterans Administration hospital in Dayton, and in that process learned the importance of speaking out for her own healing. And she also began educating herself about the extent of the problem.

“It’s still going on,” Williams said, and sexual predators in the military are rarely charged with a crime. “As long as there are no charges, they are able to sweep it under the rug and it will keep happening.”

Following the Saturday showing, Williams will lead a discussion on how people can help bring awareness to the problem of sexual violence against women in the military. And along with her own healing, she hopes to spread the word so that other women find their own voices to reclaim their lives and their dignity.


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