The reality of sexual assault in the military

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, MBA talks about the reality of sexual assault in the U.S. military
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The reality of sexual assault in the military

What's so interesting about the documentary "The Invisible War," which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013, is that in exposing the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, the US military in particular, we've exposed a culture of sexual assault that permeates American culture that's been ignored. When a woman, or a man for that matter, is sexually assaulted in the US military, more often than not, if they've had the courage to report the sexual assault, they've reported it to someone in close proximity to the perpetrator in the chain of command. And even though under Leon Panetta's leadership he was able to move the reporting of sexual assault in terms of the chain of command not enough has been done to protect service members - both men and women - who have been sexually assaulted. And as we expanded our forces in both Iran and Iraq, we increased the numbers of our service members, some who had committed sexual assault prior to joining the military. And what this did was sort of open the floodgates in a sense for bad behavior, damaging behavior. Because when someone's been sexually assaulted by a fellow service member - and remember, these are people that have basically given up everything to protect their country. It's to a certain extent worse if not on the same level as being assaulted by a family member. And that trauma is debilitating. And so if we think about how we're going to care for the plethora of veterans that have been assaulted over the years, we have to really take seriously the impact of sexual assault on their mental health and well-being. And if we can address this in the Pentagon then we can, I think to a certain extent, impact the larger rape culture in a way that really transforms society.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, MBA talks about the reality of sexual assault in the U.S. military


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Jennifer Siebel Newsom, MBA

Filmmaker & Social Justice Advocate

An advocate for women, girls, and their families, Jennifer Siebel Newsom uses her skills as a filmmaker, speaker, and CEO of the non-profit social action organization to uncover the glaring injustices we live with every day yet fail to adequately see and ultimately change.  

The eldest of four girls (Jennifer lost her elder sister Stacey in an accident when they were kids), Jennifer dedicates her time and energy to helping our most vulnerable. Most recently, Jennifer has focused her energies on helping individuals recognize their power as consumers and citizens to right wrongs in the media and beyond. 

After graduating with honors from Stanford University and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Jennifer worked in Africa and Latin America, helping women entrepreneurs create their own socially and environmentally responsible businesses.

She then moved to Hollywood to pursue acting, quickly landing roles in TV and film including Mad Men, LIFE, In the Valley of Elah, Rent and Something’s Gotta Give.

There - dismayed by the way women were presented in front of the camera - she realized she needed to do more work behind the camera. 

So she wrote, directed and produced the documentary film, Miss Representation, which exposes the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in America and challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women, which make it difficult for the average woman and girl to feel powerful herself. 

The film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. Newsom subsequently launched, a social action campaign whose mission is to shift people’s consciousness, inspire individual and community action, and transform culture.

Soon she landed on Newsweek's List of "150 Fearless Women Who Shake the World", Fast Company’s “League of Extraordinary Women”, and San Francisco Business Times’ “Most Influential Women in Business”. 

Newsom has received the “Emerging Artist Award” from The White House Project, “Champion for Kids” award from Common Sense Media, and the “Visionary Award” from Vision 2020, among others.  She has been featured in media outlets such as NPR, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, O Magazine, and Vogue

An internationally recognized speaker, Newsom has spoken at The World Bank, TEDxWomen, Google, Deutsche Bank, Charles Schwab, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women’s Summit, Soroptimist International of the Americas Conference, Harvard University, MIT, The California Senate, and The National Coalition of Girls Schools to name a few. 

Today, when she’s not running her non-profit, Newsom serves as a board member for PBS’s Northern California affiliate KQED, a Global Advisory Board member of the Dove Self Esteem Project (DSEP), and a commissioner on the Girl Scouts’ Healthy MEdia Commission. 

In 2012 Jennifer was also an Executive Producer of the Oscar-Nominated documentary, The Invisible War, which unveils the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military. And, she is currently writing, directing, and producing her next documentary series, The Mask You Live In, which exposes the extremes of masculinity imposed on our boys and men and the resulting sociological, economic, and political impact.

Newsom resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and is the proud mother of Montana, Hunter, and Brooklynn.

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