Protect Our Defenders to Continue the Work of #NotInvisible

Since The Invisible War’s world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival – the film has stunned and informed millions worldwide of the deep-seated and long-silenced epidemic of sexual assault in the U.S. military. Widely acclaimed, the film won two Emmy’s, a Peabody Award, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

But after each screening – our audiences were so moved and upset they’d ask: “What can we do about this?”

And that’s where the #NotInvisible movement began.

Partnering with veterans’ groups, women’s advocacy organizations and policy experts, we initiated a grassroots outreach campaign targeting Congress and the Department of Defense to address this issue head on.

Dozens of screenings were held with policy makers prior to the film’s public release – resulting in Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta pronouncing military sexual assault as the second most important issue of the military after the war in Afghanistan and immediately instituting significant policy reforms.

Since then, the Pentagon has increased spending by hundreds of millions of dollars annually to hire and train thousands more investigators, prosecutors, victim attorney counsels and victim advocates. Additional reforms include:

  • Increasing the decision to investigate and prosecute these crimes to the level of General
  • Limiting the power of commanders to overturn convictions
  • Keeping perpetrators separated from their victims
  • Providing legal representation to victims
  • Instituting an ambitious campaign to educate everyone in the military about sexism and sexual assault, including showing the film to hundreds of thousands of officers and the rank and file
No other U.S. documentary in history has had this kind of immediate reach into an institution it has critiqued.

On the legislative front, the impact has been even more significant – the film spurred 5 congressional hearings, and the passage of 35 new pieces of legislation on military sexual assault.

“One of the reasons why ‘The Invisible War’ was so effective: It put a face on this issue. Those were real victims telling their stories.”

– Senator Kirtsen Gillibrand, The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell

It inspired Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) to remove adjudication of military sexual assault from the chain of command. Senator Barbara Boxer credits the film with helping her pass legislation that prohibits convicted sex offenders from enlisting in the armed forces.

We are incredibly proud of the achievements of #NotInvisible – and are grateful for the many advocates, individuals, and organizations that continue to tirelessly work to make our military safer and to support survivors.

One of the most effective of these organizations is Protect Our Defenders, the only national organization solely dedicated to ending the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military.

They have been a close partner of ours since the campaign’s inception – and we are excited to announce that they will be taking over the work of #NotInvisible moving forward, shepherding our community into theirs.

Learn more about Protect Our Defenders and their groundbreaking work at www.ProtectOurDefenders.com

Thank you for all your incredible activism and support. Collectively our efforts have made a lasting and meaningful difference. But the fight is not over – we have a lot further to go – including passing Senator Gillibrand’s MJIA legislation.

We look forward to having this work continue via our collective engagement with Protect Our Defenders — an organization that is on the ground daily, working tirelessly to ensure our military is a beacon of not only might, but morality, equity and justice.

Onwards in solidarity,

Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick