AAUW to screen ‘The Invisible War’

JAMESTOWN – The James-town Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will screen the award winning documentary on sexual harassment in the military, “The Invisible War,” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the Jamestown Community College Campus in the Carnahan Theatre.

James Kennedy, WNY Regional Director for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, will introduce the film with a message from Senator Gillibrand. The event is free and open to the public. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, where it won the Audience Award, and has since received many other honors, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary.

Sexual assault in the U.S. military is a significant problem, one that affects 20 percent of women and 1 percent of men in the armed forces. “The Invisible War,” an investigative documentary, shows the impact that rape – and retaliation for reporting it – has had on thousands of service members. Elle Helmer, one of the women whose story is featured in the film, served as an officer in the U.S. Marines at the prestigious Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., from 2005 to 2006. Helmer says she was raped in the company commander’s office in 2006 but faced retaliation after reporting it and was told not to seek medical aid. After she went to the hospital, her rape kit results were “misplaced.” Helmer says her report was never taken seriously, and her alleged assailant was never charged.

“The Invisible War” also shows the efforts that are underway to address and prevent sexual violence in the military. One initiative is using the justice system to change the legal precedent that deems rape an “occupational hazard” of the job. Helmer is one of dozens of veterans involved in three lawsuits against the Department of Defense. She is a plaintiff in Klay v. Panetta. Several plaintiffs from one of the other lawsuits, Cioca v. Rumsfeld, are also featured in the documentary, as is the lawyer for all three cases, Susan Burke.

Through the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund case support program, AAUW supports the veterans in these lawsuits as well as those in a third one, Hoffman v. Panetta. AAUW works to make all workplaces free from sex discrimination and sexual violence. Viewers of the film hosted by AAUW on March 19 can help to fund LAF cases by buying popcorn and participating in a 50-50 drawing at the event. AAUW will also offer a reduced price membership of $45.50 for a membership good through June 30, 2015. A member must have a two-year degree or higher.

AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, research and philanthropy. For more information go to www.aauw.org or jamestown-ny.aauw.net.