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Image courtesy of savacenter.org.

UT hosts "The Invisible War" screening, film nominated for Oscar

"The Invisible War," which has been nominated for a 2013 Oscar Academy Award, shows interviews of women who were sexually assaulted while in the military. UT’s School of Social Work hosted sexual assault survivors to share their stories following a screening of the film this past Wednesday.
Image courtesy of savacenter.org.

Several survivors of sexual assault shared their stories on campus Wednesday as part of an event that is just one example of the increased attention the issue is getting across the nation.

UT’s School of Social Work hosted the survivors following a screening of "The Invisible War," a documentary that analyzes the pervasive, yet overlooked epidemic of sexual assault in the military. Co-sponsors of the event included Voices Against Violence, the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault and Student Veteran Services.

Noel Busch-Armendariz, an associate professor of social work and director and principal investigator for the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, said one major step in addressing the issue of sexual assault is realizing that it can happen to anyone.

“The first thing I want to say is I am a survivor of sexual assault,” Busch-Armendariz said. “The more I say that, the more we debunk the myth that it happens only to certain people in certain circumstances.”

According to the American Accreditation Healthcare Commission, current trends show that one in three women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime.

With the federal government’s lift of a ban on women in combat earlier this year, the issue of sexual assault in the military has gained increased traction, as combat duties can often put soldiers in secluded locations.

"The Invisible War," which has been nominated for a 2013 Oscar Academy Award, shows interviews of women who were sexually assaulted while in the military.

One woman in the film said she felt like a piece of meat on a slab, being a female among so many males.

“I got there in February… by April I was drugged and raped for the first time,” she said. “I didn’t have anyone to go and talk to because the people that were perpetrating me were the police.”

Jane Bost, associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center and director of Voices Against Violence, said the issue of sexual assault in the military is similar to the issue of sexual assault at UT, as in both cases the perpetrator is often someone the survivor knew and victim blaming is likely to occur.

Bost said society should focus the issue of sexual assault on perpetrators, rather than on those that fall victim to them.

“[Voices Against Violence] wants the campus community to know that sexual assault is everyone’s concern— that it is not just a woman’s issue,” Bost said.

She said the term “survivor” is a much more appropriate term than “victim,” as it promotes the empowerment of survivors, the central goal of Voices against Violence.

Maria Kimble, a veterans outreach coordinator for the Office of the Dean of Students with 22 years of military experience, said prevention is still key to avoiding sexual assault and can be learned right here on campus thru a Rape Aggression Defense course taught two to three times per semester by the University of Texas Police Department.

Similar to Wednesday’s event, Take Back the Night and several other events occur at UT annually where the UT community listens as survivors of sexual assault share their stories in front of the Tower.

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