Film depicts military sexual abuse

The Invisible War

The Invisible War is a groundbreaking investigative look into one of our country's most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military.

This Oscar-nominated film, which TIME hailed as one of the Top 10 films of 2012, will screen at the Taylor Little Theatre at Mercyhurst University on Tuesday, April 30, at 7 p.m. The film, presented by The Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture, the Veterans Affairs Association and the Crime Victim Center of Erie County, is free and open to the public. A panel discussion will follow the screening.

Panelists will include: Major Karen Foust, a current volunteer with the VA and disabled veteran who specialized in hospital administration during her 20-year military career with the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force; Dr. Russell A. Jenkins, clinical psychologist and the posttraumatic stress disorder care team leader and military sexual trauma coordinator for the Erie VA Medical Center; Gina Mannarelli-Agostine, sexual assault counselor at Crime Victim Center of Erie County and Mercyhurst alumna; and Nadean Sitter, RN, women veterans program manager for the Erie VA Medical Center.

Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of several young women, The Invisible War reveals the systemic cover up of the crimes against them and follows their struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. It also features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress that reveal the perfect storm of conditions that exist for rape in the military, its long-hidden history and what can be done to bring about much needed change.

At the core of the film are often heart-rending interviews with the rape survivors themselves – people like Kori Cioca, who was beaten and raped by her supervisor in the U.S. Coast Guard; Ariana Klay, a Marine who served in Iraq before being raped by a senior officer and his friend, then threatened with death; and Trina McDonald who was drugged and raped repeatedly by military policemen on her remote Naval station in Adak, Alaska.

And it isn’t just women. According to one study's estimate, 1 percent of men in the military – nearly 20,000 men – were reportedly sexually assaulted in 2009.

And while rape victims in the civilian world can turn to an impartial police force and judicial system for help and justice, rape victims in the military must turn to their commanders. Many rape victims find themselves forced to choose between speaking up and keeping their careers. It’s estimated that only 8 percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted.

Since it premiered at Sundance, the film has been circulating through the highest levels of the Pentagon and the administration. Academy- and Emmy-nominated director Kirby Dick and his team of filmmakers hope that this documentary will help lead a national dialogue about the crime of rape perpetrated on the very people who have pledged to protect our country.

Don’t miss the screening of this powerful and impactful documentary at Mercyhurst University.

For more information, call 814-824-3000 or visit

PHOTO: Lieutenant Elle Helmer at the Vietnam War Memorial, US Marine Corps, from The Invisible War, a Cinedigm/Docurama Films release. 


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