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Academy Award Nominated Documentary 'The Invisible War' Coming to Western

April 9, 2013

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University's Interpersonal Violence Prevention Initiative (IVPI), and several co-sponsors, will host a screening and discussion of the documentary, "The Invisible War," Wednesday, April 24, as part of the April commemoration of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

The Academy Award-nominated film, which focuses on the rape of United States military service members, the alleged cover-up and the personal and social consequences that follow, will begin at 6 p.m. and end with a discussion.

Terri Spahr Nelson, of Sugati LLC Trainings, Retreats and Consultation, will hold a discussion with WIU's ROTC leadership, hold two meetings with WIU departments and student organizations on the day of the screening, introduce the documentary and facilitate the post-film discussion and questions. Spahr Nelson, who is a U.S. Army Veteran, is a national consultant and educator with expertise in health trauma, criminal victimization, Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and campus sexual assault. She is a consultant trainer with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Office for Victims of Crime.

Spahr Nelson's experiences over the past 30 years are diverse and extensive with non-profit civilian, military and governmental agencies. She also is the owner of her own consultation and training business and a long-time private practice. She was the founder and director of a county-wide rape crisis program, president of the Ohio Coalition on Sexual Assault and consultant on numerous advisory boards and committees on sexual violence, including chair of the National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, military subcommittee. She was also instrumental in opening the first Sexual Trauma Counseling Program for women veterans at the Cincinnati Vet Center in the early 1990s.

In 2004-2005, she was called upon as a Subject Matter Expert for the Department of Defense (DoD) in the preliminary development and planning of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.

Spahr Nelson is the author of several publications on rape, sexual assault and violence, including "For Love of Country: Confronting Rape and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military" (2002, Haworth Press) and the nationally-distributed booklets, "Coping with Sexual Assault: A Guide to Resolution, Healing and Recovery," with special editions for teens, college students, military victims, and professionals and volunteers.

"This is such a powerful and relevant film, but the issues for college students (who are not service members or veterans) are different," Spahr Nelson said.

"The Invisible War," paints a startling picture on the topic of rape in the military, including the statistic that a female soldier currently in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. The Department of Defense estimates there were 19,300 service members sexually assaulted in 2010.

The film chronicles women's struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. It also features interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress about the conditions that exist for rape in the military, its long-hidden history, and what can be done to bring about change.

At the core of the film are interviews with the rape survivors, both woman and men. According to one study's estimate, 1 percent of men in the military, nearly 20,000, were reportedly sexually assaulted in 2009. According to the film, many rape victims find themselves forced to choose between speaking up and keeping their careers, and only about 8 percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted.

Since it premiered at Sundance, the film has circulated through the highest levels of the Pentagon and the administration, causing action to establish a Special Victims Unit and a direction from former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to military commanders to hand over all sexual assault investigations to a higher-ranking colonel.

"We hope viewers will gain a greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of the challenges that are present for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault of military service members, especially female service members who are disproportionately at higher risk of being a victim," said Sean Dixon, IVP coordinator at Western. "We are especially pleased to have the support of WIU's Department of Military Science and ROTC, as well as the Veterans Club student organization."

In addition to the IVPI, co-sponsors for this event include the Center for the Study of Masculinities and Men's Development, Feminist Action Alliance, Organization of Adult Students for Interaction and Support, University Counseling Center, University Theme Committee, Veterans Resource Center, Visiting Lectures Committee, WIRC-CAA Victim Services, Women's Center and the Women's Studies Department.

For more information on The Invisible War or about the IVPI at WIU, call (309) 298-2383 or email

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