“Who else would preserve their land more than someone who is willing to die for it?”
Filmmaker Lizzie Warren with Connecticut Public Television follows two women who are attempting to begin a transitional housing shelter for female veterans, but it also tells the story of four women adjusting to life after the military.
Though women account for roughly 14 percent of active-duty U.S. military and more than 24 percent of the National Guard, they often receive less than a hero’s welcome upon return to civilian life. Many of these women veterans must deal with poverty, homelessness, joblessness, and psychological and physiological effects of PTSD from military sexual assault and/or combat all within a system that is ill-equipped and, in some cases, unwilling to help. War Zone/Comfort Zone is the personal story of their plight for normalcy and peace without the benefit of a comprehensive support system.
The documentary follows the journey of Shalini Madaras and Joy Kiss in the fight to open the first transitional house for women veterans in the state of Connecticut despite virulent neighborhood opposition. It also tells the story of four women who are coping with life after the military using interviews and footage that provide a surprising look into the lives of these invisible veterans.
The film was nominated for a New England Emmy for Outstanding Documentary.
At the beginning of May the Department of Defense released figures estimating 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact that occurred in 2012, a 35 percent jump from 2010. These cases range from inappropriate contact to rape.
But military sexual trauma is showing up in more than multi-page reports. It’s been the content of documentaries, books and even a TV show mini-series that exposes the humans behind the numbers appearing in the reports.
Men and women who experienced sexual trauma are stepping forward, sharing their stories and getting in front of the camera for the first time. These stories are not new, explain many of the victims, they just haven’t been brought to light in this fashion.
The documentaries “Uniform Betrayal,” “Service: When Women Come Marching Home” and “The Invisible War” were released in 2011 and 2012 and depict men and women who have experienced sexual assault. “The Invisible War” was a 2013 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature and garnered a lot attention about military sexual trauma.
Last August, WIGS, a YouTube channel, created a TV show depicting a woman’s battle with military sexual assault. The show, “Lauren,” introduces characters to a fictional character that navigates through her rape in the military. It comes across as a dramatization of real stories and breathes life into the numbers in the headlines.
These forms of media attention are connecting faces to facts as an alternative to official reports. What will be the result of this story telling method? That’s yet to be determined.