The film focuses on the experience of a dozen female (and two male) victims, especially the harrowing tale of Kori Cioca, a wisp of young woman brutally attacked by her supervisor while on active duty with the Coast Guard. Significantly in these cases, none of the alleged perpetrators were ever charged with a crime.
Although the movie is shot through with distortions of military law and policy, I have not found even a disreputable source like me that impeaches the credibility of the victims themselves. Still, I couldn’t help noticing that not one of the alleged perpetrators was specifically named. It’s just speculation of course, but I can imagine two possible reasons for this. Unlike, say, Mark Furman, who called out Michael Skakel in his book Murder in Greenwich, the filmmakers may lack the courage of their convictions. I can’t say that I blame them; with a dozen victims, none of whose charges were considered by their chain of command to be sufficiently supported, the odds are that at least one of their stories will collapse on close examination.
The second possible reason is that certain (how can I put this?) commonalities among the perpetrators would, um, muddy the film’s message about the evil and heartless chain of command.
But having said all this, the film certainly left me with the impression that the armed services, under pressure from feminists to fully integrate females into all aspects of military operations, have by so doing created an environment in which not only do women not have sufficient protection from sexual assault, but also one in which it is very difficult to bring the perpetrators to justice. Like the victims themselves, I would have to think hard about recommending military service to any young woman.
The film opens with a montage of recruiting commercials directed at women. Most old commercials look hopelessly dated, and the efforts at recruiting women in earlier decades look comical to modern tastes. But it was interesting to watch their evolution. Whereas once the ads emphasized the compatibility between femininity and military service, contemporary commercials take the “grrrl power” angle: today’s women can “man” (is this word still acceptable?) a machine gun, too!
Except . . . the women in the movie are demanding something that no other serviceman (oops again) has: a law enforcement body, independent of command channels, that investigates and prosecutes sexual assault. I don’t actually have an opinion about this demand or its effect on readiness, but I would point out the contradiction: women demand admission to male institutions on the grounds of equality, then demand special consideration. But nowadays, this is beside the point.
The film mocks the military’s various “training” efforts aimed at combating sexual assault. Like most propaganda, some of these efforts deserve a good round of mocking on their aesthetic merits, but it’s worth pointing out that, in contrast to the related experience of these particular victims, most sexual assault involves the abuse of alcohol by both victim and perpetrator, and social situations that are frankly indistinguishable from the average hookup. I understand the frustration of the women in the movie, some of whom were brutally attacked in their own quarters, that what happened to them would be characterized as “date rape,” but regrettably, the bad behavior of too many women have changed men’s baseline expectations, and not for the better.