Jennifer Beals and Troian Bellisario reunite for a second season of “Lauren”

If you’ve been wondering what you’re going to do with yourself during the hiatus between Pretty Little Liars seasons and the kick-off of Westside (formerly known as Venice), the new Ilene Chaiken/Jennifer Beals tag-team production, we’ve got some good news for you: WIGS announced yesterday that we’ll be getting 12(!) new episodes of their web series Lauren this spring.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the project, Lauren stars Troian Bellisario and Jennifer Beals as Sergeant Lauren Weil and Major Jo Stone, respectively. Lauren’s decision to report being raped by several male soldiers leads her up the chain of command to Major Stone. However, Lauren does not receive empathy from her commanding female officer; instead, she is faced with derision and beratement when Major Stone suggests that only women who think they’re “special” expect to escape a career in the military without being sexually harassed. But it’s not as simple as that. Both women are trapped in a system that is entrenched with institutionalized sexism, and both women are trying to be the heroes they hoped to be when they signed up to protect their country.

All photos courtesy of WIGS

The awareness raised by Lauren was important when the first three episodes were released on WIGS’ YouTube channel last summer, but the conversation has become even more important in recent months as the debate about women in combat has reached fever pitch in Washington and colleges around the country have come under scrutiny for their mishandling of student-reported rape cases. Just some general statistics:

“A servicewoman was nearly 180 times more likely to have become a victim of military sexual assault (MSA) in the past year than to have died while deployed during the last 11 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.” [HuffPo]

“Over 20% of female veterans have been sexually assaulted while serving in the US army.” [The Guardian]

Women in the military are twice as likely to be sexuall assaulted as civilian women, and one in six civillian women will be assaulted in her lifetime. [HuffPo]

Only about 14% of sexual assault cases are reported, and of those 14%, only 5% of the accused are convicted. [The Guardian]

In addition to shining light on deeply troubling social injustice, Lauren also gives us the opportunity to watch two very pro-women women admire each other’s work.

The first three episodes of Lauren are available (for free!) on the WIGS YouTube channel. We’ll let you know when the first episode of season two is released.