My favorite "Pretty Little Liar," Troian Bellisario, had an interesting jinx of sorts with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday. You see, while Panetta made history by lifting the military’s ban on women in combat, Troian announced via her Twitter that she would resume work on her WIGS series, “Lauren.”
WIGS is a YouTube channel featuring scripted dramas with female leads. Bellisario, and her co-star, Jennifer Beals, are just some of the stars lending their talents to the channel; other names include Julia Stiles and America Ferrera.
For those wondering about the jinx, brace yourself: it’s heartbreaking.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Panetta explained his decision to lift the ban, saying, “(Women) serve, they’re wounded and they die right next to each other. The time has come to recognize that reality.”
Call it perfect timing, but as Panetta made his announcement, Bellisario simultaneously called attention to another, darker reality of the military: sexual assault. When the series premiered last summer, WIGS introduced the audience to Lauren (Bellisario), a staff sergeant serving overseas who reports her assault to her commanding officer, Major Jo Stone (Beals). What follows over the course of the three episodes chronicles just a few of the challenges men and women face when reporting sexual assault in the military. The episodes are eye-opening but as the warning reads before each episode, they are intended for a mature audience as they contain strong language and sexual content.
What’s all the fuss about, you might ask? Consider this: According to Forbes, "20% of women serving in the military will be sexually assaulted while serving our country" -- and this is a conservative estimate. Couple that with the knowledge that a woman serving in our military is more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed by our enemy, and you have an epidemic that is hard to wrap your head around.
With both actresses resuming work on the scripted series, it’s clear we’re not done with Lauren’s story yet. While lifting a ban preventing women from serving in combat is certainly progress, let’s hope more is done to ensure those protecting our country are protected during their service.
If you want to learn more about this issue, check out the Academy Award-nominated film, “The Invisible War.” For resources on how to seek help after a sexual assault, please visit RAINN or the National Resource Directory.