Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Associate Director Department of Public Relations (904) 620-2102
Department of Public Relations
The University of North Florida Women’s Center, One Jax Institute at UNF and the Women’s Center at Jacksonville, in conjunction with Protect Our Defenders, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness about the problems of rape in the military and supporting its victims, presents the compelling documentary, “The Invisible War” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, and Thursday, Oct. 25, in Building 58W, Student Union Auditorium, Room 2704, on the UNF campus.
The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session by Jacksonville resident and former naval aviator Lt. Paula Coughlin, a Tailhook scandal survivor. “The Invisible War” is a Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary about one of the U.S. military’s most shameful secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. armed forces.
Coughlin is speaking out again after at least 38 women have reported being sexually assaulted by instructors at the Air Force’s basic training school. One instructor has been convicted of raping a trainee and sexually assaulting several others, while 14 other instructors are being investigated or have been charged.
“I just couldn’t watch any more without speaking out,” said Coughlin, also a member of the Protect Our Defenders advocacy board. “I was absolutely distraught to think that in 20 years, the situation and the work environment for women in the military is less safe and less professional. It has really become just so abusive.”
This summer Coughlin started an online petition demanding a public hearing by the House Armed Services Committee to investigate the sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. More than 10,000 Americans have signed the petition. She and four other victims of military sexual assault recently delivered the petition to HASC Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., just before a closed-door briefing on the Lackland scandal.
Coughlin plans to participate in upcoming hearings. “The American public needs to hear the scope of this devastating epidemic of rape and assault on their military members and to hold leadership accountable,” she said.
During the 1991 convention of Navy and Marine Corps aviators, Coughlin says she was fondled and groped by up to 200 men in what was dubbed “the gauntlet,” a hotel hallway where military officers ambushed and attacked women. She reported the incident to her boss; however, after being told, “That’s what you get” by her superior officer and learning that dozens of other women had filed similar reports, she went to the press. Coughlin later sued the Tailhook Association and the hotel where the convention was held. In all, 87 women came forward and admitted they had been assaulted with no prosecutions.
This event is free and open to the public but requires an e-ticket. To obtain your free e-ticket, visit http://capricorn.anf.unf.edu/ticketing/invisiblewar.asp. For more information, contact the UNF Women’s Center at (904) 620-2528 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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