Let me follow the report by Dwight “My Liege” Sullivan on The Invisible War.
1. I attended a showing at the Naro Cinema in Norfolk today.
2. The seating is for 500, I would say the place was about 85-90% seated. The average age was about 45-50, with an audience primarily of women. It appears that a large number were members of AAUW. That there was a discussion and presentation afterwards by a AAUW legal person, some others involved in ODU rape crisis efforts, and a director of the local YWCA office that is a core resource in the area for sexual assault victims, may have been part of the reason.
Holly Kearl is legal advocacy fund project manager in the Washington, DC office for AAUW, an advocacy group advancing social and economic equity for women.
Joann Bautti is the Assistant Director of the Women’s Center at Old Dominion University, where she runs the Sexual Assault Free Environment Program.
This will be somewhat stream-of-consciousness, in other words normal for me.
1. The primary stories were certainly compelling and emotional; even allowing for them being one-sided there was an element of believability. (During the post-discussion a serving Marine L/Cpl gave her personal story.)
2. As illustrated by some of the questions and commentary there was little understanding of the military and military justice from the audience (there were a few active duty persons in attendance, including a Navy JA and another who are members of the training teams the Navy has sent out – they spoke about the Navy’s training. The other presenters had no idea what training, if any was being done by the Services, yet they were quite willing to extemporize on the military situation equating it to experiences in ODU and other college campuses) (A Marine colonel, line, showed up in uniform, and made a quite rational statement of how the Marines are trying to address the issues. This was particularly interesting in view of the emphasis put on the 8th & I allegations in the movie).
3. “Chatting” with DMLS leads me to believe I heard the same OMG’s and such from the audience as he did. Keep in mind that this showing was one of five in a “New Non-Fiction Film Series,” there was a poster and pre screening brief to this effect (you have to know the Naro, it is an eclectic movie house famous for off-beat, off the wall, foreign, Merchant-Ivory type, etc., films. They have an excellent regular Friday Rocky Horror night, where yes, people dress for the occasion – perhaps some of my former NLSO NORVA colleagues might remember that).
4. The NCIS agent. Actually My Liege, I don’t think he was NCIS. I think, along with some other errors in the show, he was mislabeled and was likely a former CID agent. Regardless. His recitation of sex offender registration was seriously flawed – like he had no idea. He seemed to believe that you only had to register if convicted of a felony – let alone the point about the sorry state of affairs when an acquitted rapist doesn’t have to register. Well, as we know that’s not true about the felony. The AWA makes it clear that registration is based on a lot of things and it is irrelevant whether it be felony or misdemeanor, SPCM or GCM, or not. Will people not learn that conviction at SPCM could be a felony, or that conviction at a GCM might not be a felony – it depends on the charge and a comparison to state law.
5. The husband. Ditto. I can understand his confusion. (I still cringe every time I hear a TC read from the trial script that I am “detailed to this court-martial” when I appear as civilian counsel in a case. Well, it’s in the script so it must be right and read. So . . .) Besides, considering the compelling testimony from the husband this is a little inside baseball. The fault would be the producer, director, and consultants and an absence of fact-checking.
6. The best spin about the “quote” from the court’s opinion in the civil case is that they were expressing an interpretation of the ruling rather than quoting. The film and the audience aren’t there to be entertained by a discussion of the Feres Doctrine, etc. But it appears clear they actually mean to quote the judge. And yes it got a lot of OMG’s. Why wouldn’t it, that was the intent.
She repeated the line as if from the court opinion, which as readers of the opinion will know is not in the opinion. And as a sort of party to the litigation you’d think she had read the opinion. This seems to have become a part of the messaging about the occupational hazard.
The tenor of her remarks was that they did not expect to win.
Also, and keep in mind this was her and NOT the attorney representing the claimants. She basically said, “She (meaning the attorney) doesn’t intend to win. This is done for the media attention.” When she said that the immediate thought in my mind was frivolous litigation. But, I caution, it was not the attorney saying this, and it may have been a Biden (I think I’m going to recommend that for a new addition to the Urban Dictionary, “to do a Biden.” OMg, I just checked, it’s already there – sort of.
8. A question from the audience was why no death penalty for these people? The discussants didn’t know if death was an authorized sentence (and I had my hand up). But here’s the explanation had the mike got to me. So there was an interesting discussion of executing rapists and also outing all of the alleged rapists named in the court case.
The death penalty is an authorized punishment for rape. However, since Coker v. Georgia, the military and all civilian jurisdictions have not sought a DP in an adult victim rape where there was no murder following the rape. Check out the discussion to R.C.M. 1004, in Appendix 21, MCM. I acknowledge there’s still an open question about rape of a child.
9. We are told that 15% (without citation to a source) of men have raped or tried rape prior to entry into service.
10. We are told that all military rapists are predators and that they are attracted and act in the same way as child abusers in the way they stalk and coach. They did reference that one of the relevant rapists had raped again once he was out of the military, and that wasn’t prosecuted either by the civilians.
11. I thought that it was interesting no mention at all about alcohol. We were left with the impression that all of the 3000 plus military sexual assaults were similar to the persons presented in the movie. Alcohol likely doesn’t matter. The ODU person says that the college experience is that the rapists on college campuses are serial rapists and have raped up to 300 times before being caught. And without any actual knowledge the discussants then said that it must be the same in the military, but perhaps worse because of the atmosphere of control.
12. The YWCA person indicated they assisted about 2700 sexual assault victims last year, and about 11% had declared themselves to be active duty.
13. The chart. Ditto. They seemed to convey the impression and the audience believed that it was the command that put the case in the “restricted” column. But as we know it is the complaining witness who does that, it is her/his choice.
14. It was interesting to note that the two male victims were, based on the uniforms and the background of the pictures, from some years ago. Nothing current. Not sure if that is meaningful at all, I suspect it isn’t. Rather perhaps a factor that male victims are even less likely to come forward than females and may not want to go public.
15. While a lot of statistics were put out in the movie and by the discussants, the only one with citations was to the 2010 DoD report. I concur that taking the statistics as gospel may not be a good idea. I’d love to see the research/study that finds 15% of male enlistees are prior rapists or sexual assaulters. Zach Spillman did something with stats (perhaps he can make those documents available, or the links at least).
16. The movie, and audience reaction was critical of DoD as is expected.
17. The victims from the movie were shown meeting with various congresspersons advocating for removal of sexual assault case decisions from the military. That may be where that particular bug came from. So ditto for how the movie mischaracterized Sec. Panetta’s response to TIW.
18. No discussion of false reports. But I wouldn’t have expected that.
19. The discussants indicated multiple attempts to get the local military commands or someone within DoD to show up and participate today. It appears the locals and DoD declined to be involved. That’s at the point where the Navy JA and her assistant popped up to educate the audience about the quality and intensity of the Navy training program. There was quite a bit of cynicism about the checking the block mentality of military training. The movie made a joke of the education programs ongoing and the audience took that point up as did the discussants in a somewhat derisive manner.
20. No discussion or questions about Lackland.
21. Ms. Kearl indicated that just today the VA has granted the claims.