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New book offers lessons for parents on discussing campus sexual assault

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Faculty & Research


In the guide for caregivers whose child was sexually assaulted on a college campus, Susan B. Sorenson provides advice and identifies resources, both on campus and within the community.

Several years ago, a friend came to Susan B. Sorenson asking for advice. “Her daughter had been sexually assaulted while studying abroad,” recalls Sorenson, who recently stepped down as the long-time director of Penn’s Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse.

Despite the prevalence of campus sexual assault, which happens to one in four female undergraduates, according to the Association of American Universities, Sorenson’s search for resources to share came up empty; very little existed to guide parents. Sorenson, who has spent decades studying sexual assault and violence against women, decided to undertake the task herself. The result, “After campus sexual assault: A guide for parents,” was published in June.

For the book, she met with students from four universities. “I listened to several dozen students who had been sexually assaulted, some quite recently, some a couple years before,” she says. “I met with parents of these students as well as parents of other students who had been sexually assaulted but who hadn’t spoken with me, and I met with campus staff members.”

Unquestionably, she says, students who are sexually assaulted need this support and care. “Parents need help, too,” she says, “and they often struggle alone.” To that end, Sorenson offers four of the lessons she gleaned for parents of college-age students who have been sexually assaulted.

Read the full article in Penn Today here.