Nightly News

Nightly News   |  January 18, 2012

Film exposes rape in the U.S. military

“The Invisible War” premieres Friday at the Sundance Film Festival. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> today in washington the secretary of defense addressed what some are calling an epidemic, rape inside the u.s. military . he promised new steps to fix one of america's shameful secrets just two days before a new documentary on the subject premieres at the sundance film festival . we'll get more from jim miklaszewski at the pentagon.

>> reporter: it's a startling statistic, women in the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than attacked by the enemy. a powerful new documentary "the invisible war " captures the horror of military sexual assault .

>> i remember holding the closet thinking, what just happened?

>> a month later, i found out i was pregnant.

>> reporter: there were more than 3,000 reports of military sexual assault last year. since many go unreported the pentagon estimates the actual number is a staggering 19,000. defense secretary leanne panetta pledged today protecting servicemembers from sexual assault is a top priority.

>> we have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor.

>> reporter: the pebt gones that taken several steps to make it easier for victims to report assaults and seek protection, but the military's record remains dismal, only 8% of sexual assault cases have been prosecuted, and only 2% end in convictions. panetta argues that military judges and prosecutors must be more aggressive.

>> in order to make sure that the signal is sent that anybody who does this is going to be held accountable.

>> reporter: but that will require a major shift in the military's mind-set and male-dominated culture, while thousands of military women suffer in silence. jim miklaszewski , nbc news, the pentagon.