Charlene Y. Senn is a social psychologist and Professor of Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada., Her research centres primarily on male violence against women and girls and includes work on sexual coercion and rape and the effects of pornography on women. She is an expert on effective sexual violence interventions, particularly those developing women’s capacity to resist sexual assault. Over the past 10 years, with CIHR funding, she developed the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) sexual assault resistance education program for women in the first year of university. The findings from the randomized controlled trial evaluation were published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine. This 12-hr program resulted in a 46% reduction in completed rapes and 63% reduction in attempted rape experienced across one year, when compared with the control group. EAAA accomplishes this while reducing woman-blaming and self-blame. She recently created a non-profit (SARE Centre) to facilitate scale-up of the EAAA program. With her co-Investigators she has obtained funding from CIHR to conduct an implementation and effectiveness study at 9 Canadian universities over the next four years.With her colleague, Dr. Anne Forrest, she has also worked since 2010 on another important piece of the campus sexual assault prevention puzzle to institutionalize effective bystander education for men and women on campus and to study its impact in the short and longer term. The institutionalization involves integration of both peer facilitator training and a 3-hr workshop (Canadian adaption of the Bringing in the Bystander® program) into the academic curriculum so that it is sustainable.
Industry Expertise (2)
Areas of Expertise (7)
Women's and Gender Studies
Violence Against Women
Sexual Violence and Campus Interventions
Male Violence Against Women
Applied Social Psychology
Sexual Assault Prevention
Human Rights and Social Justice Award (professional)
2015 Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility, University of Windsor, Presented to Forrest, Senn & Johnstone in recognition of the Bystander Initiative to Mitigate Sexual Assault on Campus
2014 Division 35, American Psychological Association
Distinguished Member Award (professional)
2010 Canadian Psychological Association, Section on Women and Psychology
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science Senior Research Leadership Chair (professional)
2009 - 2014 University of Windsor ($200,000)
York University: Ph.D., Social Psychology 1991
University of Calgary: M.Sc., Social Psychology 1985
University of Calgary: B.Sc., Psychology 1982
- Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women and Children The University of Western Ontario : Academic Research Associate
- University of Guelph : Associated Graduate Faculty (Adjunct Status)
- Canadian Psychological Association : Faculty Advisor for U of Windsor Student Representative
- Section on Women and Psychology (Canadian Psychological Association) : Division 35 (American Psychological Association) Liasion
Media Appearances (6)
In sexual assault, experience matters
Ottawa Sun online
University of Windsor psychology professor, Charlene Senn, who has spent decades studying the impact and prevention of sexual assault, notes that "Frequent, seemingly minor -- to outsiders -- indignities can accumulate to exacerbate fear, anxiety, depression, and stress."...
Training program curbs campus rape
Boston Globe online
“We need to make stopping sexual assault everyone’s business, but those are long-term solutions,” says Charlene Senn, a psychologist at the university who spent 10 years developing and fine-tuning the system. “In the meantime, we need to give women the tools they need to fight back against the men trying to sexually assault them now.”...
Sex assault doesn’t wait till graduation: The case for even earlier prevention programs
The Globe and Mail online
Proponents of early intervention believe that it can stop the cycle of revictimization that sees women who have been raped once being more vulnerable to again being assaulted. If we start in high school, said Charlene Senn, lead author of the Canadian university study, “the effects could be much more far reaching. If we can prevent those early ones, then we are preventing later ones.”...
Teaching women self-defence still the best way to reduce sexual assaults: study
The Globe and Mail online
“There are no quick fixes,” says lead author Charlene Senn, a women’s studies professor at the University of Windsor. “We need multiple strategies. But we now know that giving women the right skills, and building the confidence that they can use them, does decrease their experience with sexual violence. This is our best short-term strategy while we wait for cultural change.”...
Sex on campus: How No Means No became Yes Means Yes
The Globe and Mail online
A U.S. study in 2007 found that 50 per cent of sexual assaults happen between August and November. There aren’t good Canadian Red Zone stats, because universities aren’t required to publicly report sexual-assault complaints. But we do know this: At least one in five women say they have experienced sexual assault that includes penetration by the time they graduate, according to University of Windsor researcher Charlene Senn, who studies rape prevention; if you include unwanted touching or being “coerced” into sex, she says, the rate rises to more than 50 per cent. The vast majority of victims never go to the police, and cases that do get reported rarely result in convictions...
Involving 'bystanders' to fight sexual violence on campus
Toronto Star online
Last fall, St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the University of British Columbia were in the spotlight for offensive student behaviour during orientation. More recently, multiple members of the University of Ottawa’s men’s hockey team are alleged to have sexually assaulted a female student from another university. These universities reacted quickly and responsibly to investigate and recommend changes that will create a healthier and safer climate for all students on campus. While many applaud these efforts, others are critical because they say the problem has been blown out of proportion by biased academic research...
Research Grants (1)
Establishing effectiveness and maximizing implementation of an evidence-based sexual assault resistance intervention in universities across Canada
Canadian Institutes of Health Research $982,384
Sexual assault of adult women in Canada is responsible for more than $1.9 billion a year in healthcare and other costs. As many as 1 in 4 women will experience rape or attempted rape while attending university. These experiences have immediate and long-term negative consequences on mental and physical health. With CIHR and Ontario Women’s Health Council funding, our team of researchers developed the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act sexual assault resistance program, called EAAA for short. In a clinical trial on 3 campuses, women who received the EAAA program experienced 46% fewer completed rapes and 63% fewer attempted rapes across one year than women in the control group. The proposed research is the important next step that will assess the impact of the EAAA when it is delivered at universities outside of a highly controlled research trial. A Train-the-Trainer model has been developed to transfer training and supervision of student facilitators to Campus Trainers at 9 Canadian universities. Universities will then offer the EAAA program to their female students and the procedures used to do so will be tracked. Trainers, facilitators, and students who register for the program will participate in research designed to examine how effective the program is in these naturalistic conditions, as well as to identify which factors are related to differences in the effects. Results from this study will be shared with other researchers at conferences and through journal articles. Results will also be shared with various university and sexual violence prevention stakeholders across Canada in 3 regional workshops and used to maximize the effectiveness of the EAAA program as it is implemented across North America.
“And Then one Night When I Went to Class...”: The Impact of Sexual Assault Bystander Intervention Workshops Incorporated in Academic CoursesEducational Publishing Foundation
2015 Objective: This study evaluates the effectiveness of bystander sexual assault prevention education when the training of peer educators and delivery of prevention workshops were embedded in the undergraduate curriculum. Method: Participants were 827 undergraduate students (intervention, n= 518; control, n= 309). In a quasi-experimental design, students completed online surveys at 3 time points (baseline, 1-week postintervention and 4-month follow-up). Outcome measures included efficacy, readiness to change, intentions, ...
Efficacy of a sexual assault resistance program for university womenNew England Journal of Medicine
2015 We randomly assigned first-year female students at three universities in Canada to the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act Sexual Assault Resistance program (resistance group) or to a session providing access to brochures on sexual assault, as was common university practice (control group). The resistance program consists of four 3-hour units in which information is provided and skills are taught and practiced, with the goal of being able to assess risk from acquaintances, overcome emotional barriers in acknowledging danger, and engage in ...
Sexual violence in the lives of first-year university women in Canada: no improvements in the 21st centuryBMC Women's Health
2014 Summarizes the frequency, type, and context of sexual assault in a large sample of first-year university women at three Canadian universities. Methods As part of a randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of a sexual assault resistance education program, baseline data were collected from women between ages of 17 and 24 using computerized surveys. Participants' experience with sexual victimization since the age of 14 years was assessed using the Sexual Experiences Survey--Short Form Victimization (SES ...
Navigating ambivalence: How heterosexual young adults make sense of desire differencesThe Journal of Sex Research
2014 The miscommunication hypothesis is the assumption that many incidents of acquaintance rape and coercive sex follow from miscommunication between men and women. This hypothesis is entrenched in popular, academic, and judicial understandings of sexual relationships. Recently some evidence has suggested that there is little miscommunication between sexual partners and that the hypothesis does not explain acquaintance rape or other forms of sexual violence. The present study used qualitative methodology in which ...
Sexuality and sexual violenceAmerican Psychological Association
2014 The research literature from the wider field of sexual violence is vast. In this chapter, we introduce research on rape, sexual coercion, and unwanted sex and examine research on other areas of sexuality that collectively highlight the importance of attending to the connections and ambiguous boundaries between sexual violence on the one hand and “just sex” on the other. We focus specifically on the intersections and connections between sexual violence and sexuality. Even so, it is necessary to set some additional parameters ...