Exposing an issue covered up for more than 50 years, the Oscar-nominated investigative documentary THE INVISIBLE WAR challenged the military and politicians to finally bring an end to the epidemic of rape within the military. The #NotInvisible campaign run by FitzGibbon Media in partnership with the filmmakers turned a movie into a march for change. The film has forced the Pentagon to change its policy, the President to speak out and Congress to hold unprecedented hearings on the issue.
The bigger picture
“FitzGibbon Media has helped us bring to the public one of the most under-reported stories of our time: the epidemic of military rape. We always hoped that our film, THE INVISIBLE WAR, would be much more than a movie and with their team at our side we’ve been able to launch a movement. Fitzgibbon Media’s strategic direction, hard work, and incredible spirit has been essential to our building a broad coalition of organizational support, engaging over a hundred thousand grassroots supporters, and mobilizing those supporters to take actions that have reached the President’s desk and made a lasting impact on the Hill.”
- Award-winning Producer and Director, Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick
THE INVISIBLE WAR
The epidemic of sexual assault in the military is one of the most under-reported stories of our generation. A servicewoman or man is assaulted every 21 minutes in the military. The Department of Defense estimates there were a staggering 26,000 service members sexually assaulted in 2012 alone, and roughly 500,000 in the last two decades.
The film, THE INVISIBLE WAR, and the social action campaign #NotInvisible designed and executed by FitzGibbon Media, took aim at one of the largest institutions on the planet and at a systemic problem that had been purposely covered up and ignored for decades.
Working to use an award-winning documentary to spark a conversation, FitzGibbon Media set out to:
- End the epidemic of sexual assault within the U.S. military;
- Help survivors of Military Sexual Assault heal;
- Use the theatrical release of the film The Invisible War as a catalyst in creating lasting political and cultural change.
By engaging with advocacy organizations, key policymakers, military leaders, online influencers and other stakeholders, our overarching goal was to raise public awareness and energize the grassroots to take action that would make change in military policy and behavior.
We knew early on that in order to create lasting change and cause real impact – THE INVISIBLE WAR would need more than a standard film PR strategy. More than a movie, this was an opportunity to build a movement.
It would take a multi-faceted approach. Applying pressure from all angles, activating supporters at the grassroots level and strategic grasstops targets, as well as engaging people both online and off – and translating their desire to help into more focused, meaningful actions.
We built a coalition to ensure the theatrical release of THE INVISIBLE WAR was not a flash in the pan, but rather the ignition point to raise awareness, harness outrage and spur a public outcry for the larger issue at hand. We engaged with policymakers, prominent military leaders to serve as validators, key stakeholders, the media, grasstops leaders and individuals in the masses to raise public awareness, harness outrage and eventually shift policy.
The coalition served as a means to get our message out, coordinate policy efforts, and spur grassroots activity. Additionally, we designed and developed an action website (www.NotInvisible.org) to serve as the hub for information, online activation, organization and mobilization. We built community, shared survivors’ stories and spread news throughout social channels. With little to no paid media, our base stands strong with over 100,000 supporters.
The integrated campaign created by FitzGibbon Media, started a nationwide conversation, spurred Washington to act, and is changing the way the military does business.
- Two days after watching the film, Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta held a press conference to announce new initiatives to combat military sexual assault;
- In July, 2012, the Army, Air Force and National Guards began using the film as a training tool to combat sexual assault. It’s estimated that a quarter of a million military members have seen it. Additionally, THE INVISIBLE WAR has been screened by nearly every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
- An instructor at Lackland Air Force Base was sentenced to 20 years for sexual assault, the first of many instructors being charged with sexual misconduct. A Public Affairs Officer in the Pentagon says that this swift response would not have happened without the film’s influence;
- THE INVISIBLE WAR has been at the forefront of multiple Senate and House hearings including the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense Hagel; a first-of-its-kind hearing on Military Sexual Assault by Armed Services Subcommittee Chair Sen. Gillibrand; and is mobilizing grassroots supporters to engage with their Senators asking them to support the Military Justice Improvement Act to move the decision to prosecute assault out of the chain of command;
- Nominated for Best Documentary at the 85th Academy Awards, the filmmakers and their stars, the survivors, have taken Hollywood by storm mobilizing high-profile celebrities to join the #NotInvisible campaign;
- The film has been screened by senior White House advisors, who later held a summit with Congressional Leadership at the White House to discuss plans to combat the epidemic of military rape. President Obama made multiple statements calling for sexual assault in the military to be thoroughly investigated and offenders held accountable;
- For the first time in more than 30 years General Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, flew all 164 USAF Wing Commanders from bases around the world back to the Pentagon. Together, they watched THE INVISIBLE WAR.