Military sexual assault is focus of YouTube series
This image provided by Kayt Jones shows a scene from YouTube's new channel WIGS' "Lauren," starring Troian Bellisario as a female soldier who reports being raped. The three-part Web series gives a close-up look at the challenges and obstacles women service members face in trying to find justice after being raped. (AP Photo/Kayt Jones)
SAN DIEGO (AP) — 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.
This image provided by WIGSCO, LLC shows Jennifer Beals, as Maj. Jo Stone in WIGS' "Lauren," reacting as she learns one of the soldiers under her command has reported being raped. The three-part Web series gives a close-up look at the challenges and obstacles women service members face in trying to find justice after being raped. (AP Photo/WIGSCO, LLC )
"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.