On “Invisible War” and overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder

As I prepare to go to picture on my directorial debut, I’d like to share some of what I have been reading and discovering. I’ve long been familiar with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a very common form mental illness, and gender violence. I’ve also been sadly aware of the asymmetry of gender power in the US military, and I thought I knew how commonly our servicewoman are harassed, exploited, degraded, controlled or otherwise have their sexual autonomy, bodily integrity, and rights egregiously abused by our servicemen. For example, I am familiar with the habit of many servicewoman of not taking fluids after a certain hour, as they need to avoid urinating – sexual assault is so common in the bathrooms they prefer to risk dehydration in Iraq or Afghanistan rather than go for a pee. However, in preparing for “Five More” for Lifetime, a series of five shorts about mental illness, my narrative being the fifth and about PTSD, I am shocked – a word I use neither lightly nor often – at the wholesale, rampant, extraordinary, and inexcusable epidemic of what can only be called systemic and mass rape in the US military. Below are some of my incontrovertible sources, from the servicewomen themselves and the Department of Defense. I hope that after reading, you’ll take action by joining the Service Women’s Action Network’s in supporting this petition, and by watching Invisible War in its entirety. After that, you have choices: write a letter to the editor of your local paper, share these resources and your feelings with your social networks and family, and in general, gather your outrage and make it count toward to ending impunity for rapists in the US military.

As we discuss this important topic, don’t lose sight, though, of PTSD in general. I include some facts below, and if you think you might have PTSD, or know someone who does, talk to your doctor and utilize available online mental health resources, such as National Alliance for Mental Health, and the Mayo Clinic.

Please stay tuned for more information in this space on “Five More,” including my thoughts about my fantastic actors, Jennifer Hudson and Brittany Snow!



PTSD information and resources

Getting help
Tools for resolving PTSD can include: EMDR, Brain State Technology and trauma work—such as that offered by an experiential therapist and treatment centers like Shades of HopeOn-siteThe Mellody House, etc..

Discussion and advocacy
Service Women’s Action Network Information, advocacy, and policy resources

Invisible War, an urgently important documentary with first person narratives about the mass rape culture in our military.

The leading veteran’s news source publishes the Defense Department’s sexual assault report, and Secretary Panetta’s remarks.

An outstanding investigate report about the Military Sexual Report.

PTSD facts

  • It’s natural to be afraid when in danger.
  • It’s natural to be upset when something bad happens to you or someone else.
  • If the fear and upset persists weeks or months later, it’s time to talk with your doctor.
  • It may be post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • PTSD is a real illness.
  • PTSD can be caused by living through or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident.
  • PTSD causes feelings of stress and fear after the danger is over.
  • PTSD starts at different times for different people.
  • Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue.
  • Other times, the signs and symptoms develop months or even years later
  • PTSD can happen to anyone at any age.
  • Children get PTSD too.
  • PTSD can be a result of vicariously, indirectly witnessing/experiencing another’s trauma
  • Millions of Americans get PTSD every year.
  • Many war veterans have had PTSD.
  • Women tend to get PTSD more often than men.

Living through or witnessing something that’s upsetting and dangerous, outside of the normal human experience, including but not limited to:

  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • War or combat
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting.


  • Bad dreams/Nightmares
  • Flashbacks, or feeling like a scary event is happening again
  • Uncontrollable scary thoughts
  • Staying away from places and things that are reminders of what happened
  • Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
  • Feeling alone
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling on edge
  • Angry outbursts
  • Thoughts of hurting/attempting to hurt oneself or others

Children who have PTSD may show other types of problems. These can include:

  • Behaving like they did when they were younger
  • Being unable to talk
  • Complaining of stomach problems or headaches a lot
  • Refusing to go places or play with friends.

PTSD can be treated. Treatment may include “talk” therapy, EMDR, Neurofeedback, medication, or combinations of these.
Treatment might take 6 to 12 weeks. For some people, it takes longer. Treatment is not the same for everyone. What works for one might not work for another
Drinking alcohol or using other drugs will not help PTSD go away and may even make it worse.

PTSD facts adapted from NIMH educational materials.
The National Institute of Mental Health. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved November 16, 2012,  from The National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-easy-to-read/complete-index.shtml