Ohio woman central to Oscar-nominated documentary

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CINCINNATI (AP) -- A film that tells the story of a southwestern Ohio woman who left the Coast Guard after being beaten and raped by a supervisor will be among five nominees contending for a best documentary Oscar on Sunday.

"The Invisible War," an investigative documentary that examines the epidemic of sexual assault in the military and why so few cases are prosecuted, introduces viewers to Kori Cioca, who grew up in Wilmington and now lives in Washington Township.

Cioca (pronounced CHO'-ka) said that even now, seven years after the rape, she has post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, flashbacks and anxiety. Sometimes she wakes her husband in the middle of the night and tells him to get his shotgun and investigate a strange noise.

"I put my train wreck out there so it could help someone else in the same situation," the 27-year-old Cioca told The Cincinnati Enquirer (http://cin.ci/XoqNW5 ). "I'm already messed up for the rest of my life."

Cioca, who is married with two children, said she still feels pain her jaw after it was dislocated during one of two assaults involving her supervisor and has to get five nerve-block injections in her face every three weeks so she can eat "real food" instead of a soft diet.

A message seeking comment was left at Coast Guard headquarters on Saturday.

The Coast Guard declined to pay to treat Cioca's jaw, she said. It was paid for by anonymous donors who have seen "The Invisible War," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film won an audience award.

Cioca and her husband, Robert McDonald, will attend the Academy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles and will sit with the film's producers.

Documentarian Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering were inspired to make "The Invisible War" by troubling Department of Defense estimates that more than 19,000 military men and women were sexually assaulted by fellow troops in 2010 while serving in the United States armed forces. At least 20 percent of servicewomen and 1 percent of men -- an estimated 500,000 troops -- have experienced sexual trauma while serving.

A 2009 study shows that only 8 percent of military sex offenders are prosecuted.

Cioca said she repeatedly complained to her commander in 2005 about sexual harassment from the supervisor before he raped her at the Coast Guard's Saginaw River station in Michigan.

Even though the man confessed to having sex with her, Cioca said she was told if she pressed forward with reporting the sex as a rape, she would be court-martialed for lying.

She said the man pleaded guilty only to hitting her and his punishment was a minor loss of pay and being forced to stay on the base for 30 days, while she said she was discharged from the military for a "history of inappropriate relationships."

A message seeking comment was left at Coast Guard headquarters on Saturday.

Two years ago, Cioca filed a class-action lawsuit charging former Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates with failure to provide a military judicial system for sexual assault cases, and leadership that would prevent rape and sexual assaults.

The case is set to be heard by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in May.

For two years, filmmakers visited Cioca's home for interviews and accompanied her and her husband to the Dayton VA Medical Center.

One scene shows Cioca by herself at the Little Miami River, where she read a secret suicide note she had written in 2007. She had planned on overdosing on pain pills -- until a urine test revealed she was pregnant with their first child, Shea, now 4.

McDonald, also a Coast Guard veteran, said that was the toughest part of watching the documentary and called Cioca "the strongest person I've ever met."

Cioca, who describes herself as a "small-town girl" didn't know until she was at Sundance that she'd be the film's centerpiece.

Cioca said she didn't enjoy shopping for Oscars dresses like so many women would; it triggered a flashback while she was looking for a dress in Springdale.

"After you've been raped, trying to feel or look pretty isn't the same as before. You don't want to call attention to yourself," said Cioca, who settled on a long, simple dress in her favorite color, black.

"You can hide better in black," she said. "You can fit better in the shadows."

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Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com