Oscar-nominated documentary ‘The Invisible War’ brings attention to rape and sexual assault in the military

Martha Raddatz, Richard Coolidge, Sherisse Pham & Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

On the Radar

An Oscar nomination is a terrific honor for a filmmaker, but for director Kirby Dick, the recognition means so much more. An Academy Award nomination for "The Invisible War" brings with it more attention to the subject of the documentary -- sexual assault and rape in the U.S. military, and the frequent cover ups.

"Every time there's more attention to this issue, there's more activity in Washington," says the director. "We made this film because we wanted to change things...we wanted the military to do what [it needs] to do to protect the men and women who are protecting us."

A news article first sparked director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering's interest in the subject.

"We started to do additional research, and were amazed to find how many men and women had been sexually assaulted ... over half a million over the last generation," says Dick. "And then we were equally surprised at how covered up it had been."

The director says -- and the documentary reveals -- that the military avoided sexual assault and rape cases, and even tried to hide the problem.

"When the scandals did break, the military's first response was to deny it, then to try to disgrace the victim, then to say it was localized, and they were dealing with it. And they did this over and over and over again," says Dick.

Making this film was difficult. Dick says after most interviews with victims, producer Amy Ziering would walk out crying, and he himself would be enraged.

"These are such patriotic men and women, they really want to serve their country," says Dick. "And then to see them not only sexually assaulted, which is bad enough, when they had the courage to come forward and report, and have the military turn on them, in many ways destroy their lives, that's what was so heartbreaking."

The movie has garnered swift and enormous reaction, especially given that Washington, D.C., usually moves at a glacial pace.

"We never really expected it to move this quickly. [Defense] Secretary Panetta saw the film in April of 2012, two days later he held a press conference announcing very significant changes -- first steps -- but they were very significant," says Dick.

"What's really happening is that the film has become the reference point for this issue in Congress, in the administration, and in the military."

For more of this interview, including what director Kirby Dick says really has to change to end the abuse, check out this week's On the Radar.