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Documentary airing on WUSF-Ch. 16 tackles issue of rape in the military

The numbers, when you consider them, are astounding.

An estimated 19,000 rapes were reported inside the military in 2011. About 498 people were prosecuted. Just 38 percent of those were convicted; somewhere around 189 people.

That's less than 1 percent.

Those are the dramatic figures at the heart of a new, locally produced documentary airing at 10 tonight on WUSF-Ch. 16, Uniform Betrayal: Rape in the Military; a problem 23 percent of female veterans and 1.2 percent of male veterans say they have experienced, according to the film.

One woman, a 20-year Air Force veteran, recalled being raped by a fellow serviceman; after she told her superior, he pressured her for sexual favors and eventually raped her as well.

A man spoke of being targeted by other men on his ship in the Navy, eventually resorting to going AWOL to avoid his tormentors. Other female veterans spoke of getting coached to avoid being alone with fellow soldiers.

Jennifer Molina, a documentary filmmaker who also leads the Healthy State Collaborative health reporting project at WUSF, said the film grew from following a study underway at the University of South Florida's College of Nursing, which looked at female soldiers coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. They found almost every woman in the study they interviewed had PTSD because she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow solider; referred to in military-speak as Military Sexual Trauma, Molina said.

So she and producer Sarah Pusateri crafted an hour-long documentary balancing military officials trying to handle the problem with the stories of lawyers, journalists, researchers and veterans outlining how often the system fails victims.

Some statements — including one from a brigadier general insisting there is no "epidemic" of rape — begs for confrontation with facts. If 23 percent of female soldiers were shot, the conclusion might be different.

The film may be the last big project from the Healthy State Collaborative, an ambitious network of reporters connecting public radio stations across the state and building the HealthyState.org website, funded by a two-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The CPB hasn't decided on a third year of funding and some staffers are moving on, including Molina, who leaves WUSF May 22 to teach and make films in Chicago.

"I think we accomplished what we set out to do," said Molina, who expected other PBS stations across Florida to air the documentary. "We created a brand."

Documentary airing on WUSF-Ch. 16 tackles issue of rape in the military 05/01/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 8:40pm]

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