Penn Researchers Call for Greater Consistency in Defining and Reporting of Sexual Assaults

Researchers at the School of Social Policy and Practice of the University of Pennsylvania have prepared a policy brief for lawmakers that calls for uniform reporting standards and definitions on issues of sexual assault in this country. The brief also calls for inclusion of all population groups, including men, in statistical analyses of sexual assault.

Susan B. Sorenson, professor of social policy and executive director of the Ortner Center on Family Violence at the University of Pennsylvania, states that “estimates differ substantially across sources, and comparisons are impeded by inconsistent definitions of rape and sexual assault.” Professor Sorensen says that “nationally-representative studies are rare and usually fail to include children, adolescents, men, people serving in the military, or those who are hospitalized or incarcerated.”

The policy brief, which can be downloaded here, calls for uniform definitions of sexual assault, increasing training for professionals who deal with sexual assault victims, and for improving communication of research findings to the public.

Professor Sorenson has been on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania since 2006. Previously, she taught for 20 years at the School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles. A graduate of Iowa State University, Professor Sorenson holds a master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Cincinnati.

Filed Under: Sexual Assault/Harassment


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