"Lauren": A New Online TV Series Tackles Military Assault
August 19, 2012 Anu Bhagwati / Service Women's Action Network & Julie Watson / The Associated Press
The enormous obstacles and emotional torment that a female solider confronts in reporting a sexual assault in the military are the focus of the three-part Web series "Lauren" that debuted August 13 on YouTube channel. Featuring "Flashdance" star Jennifer Beals and Troian Bellisario, "Lauren" gives a close-up look at the challenges women soldiers face in trying to find justice after being raped.
YouTube Debuts Powerful New Web Series on Military Rape Anu Bhagwati / Service Women's Action Network
'I'm writing to let you know about "Lauren," a remarkable new Youtube series written by Jay Rodan and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (Mad Men, True Blood, Newsroom) featuring a female soldier (Troian Bellisario, Pretty Little Liars), who reports a sexual assault to her superior officer (Jennifer Beals), who then has to choose between what she loves and what is right.
Lauren provides a comprehensive and compelling portrayal of the many different issues surrounding sexual violence in the military, as well as the multifaceted and complex roles women in the military are often forced to navigate.
I hope that many people watch this program, and that it increases public understanding about military culture and the brutality, retaliation, intimidation, and lack of access to justice that survivors often face when they come forward.
The series premiering at www.youtube.com/wigs. The first episode is available at www.youtube.com/wigs.
The second episode debuted on Wednesday, August 15 and the final episode was presented on August 17. (Note: This program contains potentially triggering content.)
SWAN applauds the work of Jennifer Beals, Troian Bellisario, Jay Rodan and Lesli Linka Glatter on this piece. We also thank the team at Youtube WIGS for connecting with us to make sure the episodes got to you. We look forward to your feedback.
Anu Bhagwati is the Executive Director of the Service Women's Action Network and a Former Marine Corps Captain.
SWAN is a civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN's vision is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault. SWAN also seeks to reform veterans' services on a national scale to guarantee equal access to quality health care, benefits and resources for women veterans and their families. You can find the Service Women's Action Network on our homepage , on Twitter or on Facebook
SAN DIEGO (August 14, 2012) -- The enormous obstacles and emotional torment that a female solider confronts in reporting a sexual assault in the military are the focus of the three-part Web series "Lauren" debuting Monday on YouTube's new channel WIGS, which focuses on drama for women.
Featuring "Flashdance" star Jennifer Beals and Troian Bellisario, "Lauren" gives a close-up look at the challenges women service members face in trying to find justice after being raped. It's a problem that military leaders have given unprecedented attention to this year.
The Defense Department has estimated that 86 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, an indication that some women are worried about the effect reporting an assault may have on their career and that they mistrust the military prosecution system. Nearly 3,200 sexual assaults were reported in the military last year.
Military leaders say sexual assault is not only dehumanizing to the victims but threatens operational readiness. The Pentagon has set up hotlines and has been trying to encourage service members to help victims.
High-ranking Navy leaders have likened their campaign to the crusade years ago to stop rampant drug abuse, although activists say sweeping institutional changes are needed for victims to find justice.
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, "Lauren" sets out to show viewers how unfair and unsympathetic the military can be toward the abuse of female service members. At the same time, it depicts the turmoil of many of the victims -- who have a deep love and respect for the military but often feel betrayed after coming forward.
The series opens with an Army commanding officer -- Maj. Jo Stone, played by Beals -- scrutinizing a report made by a sergeant named Lauren about being raped by three fellow soldiers. Stone asks the young soldier if she ever considered a career as a fiction writer and then asks how many drinks she had the night of the "incident." She provides an ominous warning if she pursues her accusations.
"Even if the men are deemed guilty, they're likely to suffer a reprimand or a slight pay cut, nothing more," Stone tells the soldier. "But WHAT will happen to you may expose you to repercussions for your entire career."
After Monday's debut, the second and third episodes in the series will be available Wednesday and Friday.
Beals told The Associated Press her character's words may at first seem hurtful and harsh but later viewers realize it's more complex for the commanding officer, who herself has had to fight her way up through the ranks.
"Even though she seems so hard, there is one little flicker of humanity," Beals said, adding later: "You have to get to the end (of the series) before you realize what the real story is."
Bellisario said in an interview that she was drawn to the script because even though her father, "NCIS" and "JAG" producer Donald P. Bellisario, served in the Marine Corps, she was not aware of the institutional barriers in today's military that deter many female service members from reporting sexual assaults.
"The biggest problem when you're overseas and you're serving, is all you have is the guy or girl next to you and your commanding officer," Bellisario said. "If your commanding officer does not want to do it (report the rape), then you have nowhere else to go."
More than a dozen U.S. veterans who say they were raped or assaulted by comrades filed a class-action suit in federal court last year attempting to force the Pentagon to change how it handles such cases. The current and former service members -- 15 women and two men -- described circumstances in which servicemen allegedly got away with rape and other sexual abuse while their victims were ordered to continue to serve with them. In several cases, the aggressors continued to call them names and taunt them.
Bellisario hopes the series will help push efforts to prevent sexual assault and prosecute it to the full degree.
"My hope is people will see that this is not slandering this great institution but rather holding it up to a high standard and asking it to recognize there is an issue and that it should be addressed," she said. "It's not anti-military at all."
Anuradha Bhagwati is a former Marine Corps captain and executive director of the Service Women's Action Network, which advocates for such policy changes. She was allowed to preview the series and says it gives a realistic picture of what thousands of female service members face, especially its depiction of the retaliation and name calling victims often suffer.
"One of the key things that the series brings up," Bhagwati said, "is this idea that you often don't get a fair shot within the military judicial system."
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In a week when Army Staff Sgt. Matt Sitton, 26, of Largo was buried, seven more troops were killed in Afghanistan.
Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35, of West Point, N.Y., and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 45, of Laramie, Wyo., died Aug. 8 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they encountered an insurgent who detonated a suicide vest. These soldiers were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
Spc. Ethan J. Martin, 22, of Lewiston, Idaho, died Aug. 7 in Koragay, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when he encountered enemy small-arms fire. Martin was assigned to 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Ala.
Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38, of Conyers, Ga., died Aug. 8 from injuries suffered during a suicide bomb attack in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Gray was assigned to the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Carson, Colo.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Clayton R. Beauchamp, of Weatherford, Texas, died Aug. 7 when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device while conducting a dismounted patrol in the Shaban District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, 1st Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Cpl. Daniel L. Linnabary II, 23, of Hubert, N.C., died Aug. 6 during combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Master Sgt. Gregory R. Trent, 38, of Norton, Mass., died Aug. 8 in Bethesda, Md., from wounds suffered July 31 in Baktabad, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire. Trent was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.
There have now been 2,065 troops killed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation's longest war.
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