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Military Sexual Trauma – Seeking Justice

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On the second day she was embedded with Marines during the invasion of Iraq, journalist Mercedes Gallego was approached by several service women. They cautioned her that it was not safe to be alone and warned her that they always went to the bathroom in pairs, taking their rifles.

The reason, they explained, was fear of being raped. That was Gallego’s introduction to the subject she and director Pascale Bourgaux explore in the 29-minute film, Rape in the Ranks: The Enemy Within (2007). Bourgeaux was recently in New York for a screening at the New York Independent Film Festival. She articulated her desire to give a voice to the victims and their families who have been impacted by this crisis.

Four women’s narrative strands are followed in the documentary. One of these is related by the family of Tina Priest, who is dead. As her mother and twin sister are shown cleaning Tina’s headstone and tending her grave, they talk of how she died in Iraq. They were notified by the Army that the cause was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Her mother makes clear, “I don’t know how she died, but I want to know how.”

In a letter written from Tina to her mother she confides, “He raped me, but if he gets set free, he will beat me to death or murder me.”

Two weeks after Tina’s death, a military court ruled that she had never been raped and was not killed. An independent ballistics specialist hired by Tina’s family believes the “Army is hiding the truth.”

The narration states that in 2006 there were 3,000 complaints of rape and attempted rapes, with less than 2 percent of the aggressors going to court.

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