Angelina Speaks Out on Wartime Rape

Last Thursday at the London G8 Summit, Angelina Jolie spoke out about ending wartime rape and sexual violence, urging foreign leaders to hold offenders accountable.  Thankfully, the forum agreed to fund a $35.5 million initiative to improve prevention and response.

“Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been sexually assaulted, tortured or forced into sexual slavery in the wars of our generation,” Jolie said, flanked by eight ministers in suits and Zainab Hawa Bangura, United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflicts.

“Today I believe their voices have been heard and that we finally have some hope to offer them. I welcome the long overdue stand that the G8 has taken,” Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said.

Sadly, wartime rape is not only directed by the attackers onto the attacked.  Rape occurs within the very ranks of the military as well, which has been heartbreakingly exposed by this SBS documentary, The Invisible War.

Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of multiple rape victims, The Invisible War is a moving indictment of the systemic cover-up of military sex crimes, chronicling the women’s struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. It also features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress that reveal the perfect storm of conditions that exist for rape in the military, its long-hidden history, and what can be done to bring about much-needed change.

And while rape victims in the civilian world can normally turn to an impartial police force and justice system for help, rape victims in the military must turn to their command—a move that is all too often met with foot-dragging at best, and reprisals at worst. Many rape victims find themselves forced to choosebetween speaking up and keeping their careers. Little wonder that only eight percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted.

GQWhile women have fought long and hard to pave the way for themselves in positions once dominated by men, they remain faced with deep-seated prejudice and are too often tools used to define and bolster male dominance and masculinity itself.  For centuries, women have been systematically excluded from most professional positions, reduced to being sex workers or filling roles that were not considered powerful or ambitious.  While women have clearly come a very long way, that history of portraying women as submissive and sexually available lingers today.  We see images upon images, day in and day out, portraying women as both sexy and disposable, a kind of currency enjoyed by rich or powerful men who can afford their company.  Women’s nude bodies are shown in nearly every mainstream movie rated AA or above, and it’s been historically considered normal and acceptable for powerful men to have several mistresses –some ‘men just can’t help it’ rhetoric.  While most men today are fully respectful of women and consider themselves progressive, these kinds of portrayals and images remain constant and are not entirely innocent.  Like advertising, seeing the same repetitive messages day by day affects both how young men learn to think about women and, more importantly, how women learn to think about themselves.  A new Dove research project was just released, concluding that only 4% of women think they are beautiful.  This represents a continual kind of emotional oppression that often results in women staying in abusive relationships or not reporting rape or sexual violence when it happens.

Recently, 6 men were charged in a gang-rape of a Swiss woman in India, causing international uproar.  In Western nations, we have often looked to the Middle East and to India and denounced the way that women are treated in many of these places.  However, instead of pointing fingers overseas and saying that mistreating women is their problem, all this should tell us is that rape is a global issue; misogyny is a global issue.  If we are going to fund efforts to end violence for wartime rape, let us also end the violence occurring at home, in our own militaries and other professions –both sexual, emotional and psychological.


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3 Comments on “Angelina Speaks Out on Wartime Rape”

  1. elise jenkins April 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    this is well-written, and I can say first hand that The Invisible War is very important film. i know women in the military and more people should take notice of issues like this. thank you

    • utopiandreaming April 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Thank you for your comment! It is an important and under-discussed issue, I agree.

  2. cobrastarshipjenny April 23, 2013 at 12:03 am #

    Reblogged this on Womanizer.

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