'Invisible War': New Documentary Exposes Rape in the Military

Women recount assault and denial by military in documentary.

ByABC News
June 22, 2012, 9:07 PM

June 27, 2012— -- It was not a story she liked to tell.

At 19, Kori Cioca had joined the Coast Guard, and after completing basic training, she said, "I had never felt so proud of myself. I was ready for anything they could throw at me.

"But I didn't think rape was going to be one of them."

Her sister was in the Navy, college wasn't for Cioca, and there was no waiting period to join the Coast Guard. So Cioca, who is 4 feet 11 inches tall, signed up. But within two months she had been assaulted and raped by her 6-foot-3-inch supervisor, who weighed 240 pounds.

He had been asking her out, not accepting her "no," making lewd comments, drinking on the job, making her perform hard physical labor on the boat that generally required three men.

One night, he raped her. To this day, Cioca suffers from nerve damage in her face from a broken jaw; she takes numerous medications for anxiety and depression and is on a diet of soft foods -- mashed potatoes, Jell-O.

"When I reported the rape, it was like poking a beehive, I was getting stung from every side," she told ABC News. No one wanted to tangle with the perpetrator; he'd threaten to kill the family of anyone who reported him. Even today, Cioca says she understands her fellow Coasties' reluctance to get involved. And even today, though her assaulter remains in the military, in Charleston, S.C., Cioca says she still loves the Coast Guard.

A few years after the incident, when two Los Angeles-based filmmakers, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, got her name from a lawyer representing Cioca and other women who'd been raped and asked to come see her, "I said O.K," said Cioca. "I was nervous."

"When someone finds out you've been raped," she said, "they look at you like you're disgusting." So when Cioca got to the part in her story about the rape, "I put my head down, because I didn't want to see the way they were looking at me. But when I looked up, Kirby and Amy were both crying with me."

The result of that interview, and dozens more, is "The Invisible War," a moving, often shocking documentary that seamlessly weaves together the stories of women who signed up for the military intending to serve their country but instead found themselves the victim of rape.

And as terrible as the rape was, the repercussions were almost as horrendous -- women were accused of adultery (if the perpetrator happened to be married) or "conduct unbecoming an officer." They lost rank, they were accused of having "set up the men." When one of the women reported a rape -- the third that week in one particular unit -- she was asked, "You girls think this is a game; are you all in cahoots?"

It's what Dick refers to as the "second traumatization, the way the victim is treated by the military."