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Niki Tsongas: Ready for her close-up

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Massachusetts movie buffs may have soured on the Oscars, given the snub of local boy Ben Affleck, who wasn’t nominated as Best Director for “Argo.” But in the category of Best Documentary Feature, the work of another of the state’s key performers gets its due.

“The Invisible War,” by filmmaker Kirby Dick, is an alarming account of sexual assault in the military. It tells the stories of junior recruits who were raped by their supervisors, and of women in the field who feared the night more for the threat of assaults by fellow soldiers than the enemy. One of the film’s main characters is Lowell’s Representative Niki Tsongas. She has been a national leader, from her seat on the House Armed Services Committee, in calling attention to this alarming problem.

In 2012, Tsongas established the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus with Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican. The two put provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act to create an independent panel to examine the Pentagon’s response to sexual assaults, require better reporting, and create a special victims unit within the military justice system. Affleck may have been robbed, but the “The Invisible War” and Tsongas’ work on the issue are both worthy of a gold statue.

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