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Kristen Zaleski - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Kristen Zaleski Kristen Zaleski

Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work Dept. of Adult Mental Health and Wellness | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Clinical Associate Professor focused on sexual assault victims and psychotherapy.



Kristen Zaleski Publication




Sexual Assault Podcast with Dr. Kristen Zaleski, LCSW & Dr. Erik Schott, LCSW Nurturing and Teaching Empathy in Social Work: Kristen Lorene Zaleski and Edwin Rutsch



Dr. Kristen Zaleski is a professor, psychotherapist, and researcher of sexual violence in both civilian and military settings. Her current research interests include technology facilitated sexual violence, gender based violence and its connection to human rights within American society, and clinical treatments of trauma in the therapy room. She is a topic expert on sexual violence in American society, PTSD and stress response, interpersonal neurobiology, and modern day attachment theory. Dr. Zaleski's work and research experience makes her a unique authority on the micro influences of trauma on the psychological, physical, and spiritual health of an individual.

Dr. Zaleski's first book, Understanding and Treating Military Sexual Trauma, is currently in its 2nd edition and is the first social work text on the topic. Oxford University Press will be publishing her next text in 2019 on the topic of transnational feminism and global violence.

Dr. Zaleski is active in the clinical community of Los Angeles, often consulting or providing education to trauma providers across Southern California, and is nationally recognized for her work on sexual violence both in military communities and online. Dr. Zaleski is on the advisory board on the Center for Law and Military Policy and works with the USC Keck Human Rights Clinic providing psychological evaluations for humanitarian refugees.

To reference the work of Kristen Zaleski online, we ask that you directly quote their work where possible and attribute it to "Kristen Zaleski , a faculty at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work” (LINK: https://dworakpeck.usc.edu)

Education (4)

The Sanville Institute for Clinical Social Work: Ph.D. 2013

University of Southern California: M.S.W. 2004

University of California, Los Angeles: B.A. 2001

Santa Barbara City College: A.A. 1999

Areas of Expertise (7)

Neurobiology Empathy Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sexual Assault Psychotherapy LGBTQI Mothering

Industry Expertise (6)

Mental Health Care Training and Development Health Care - Providers Health and Wellness Health Care - Services Education/Learning

Accomplishments (4)

Hutto Patterson Foundation Award for Distinguished Faculty (professional)

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Featured Author (professional)

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Bonnie Bearson Scholarship Fund (professional)

Sanville Institute

Graduation Speaker (professional)

University of Southern California


Media Appearances (5)

Comment Sections Are Cesspools Of Rape Culture, Research Finds

Huff Post  


“I was surprised that so many people were so mean about these victims,” Kristen Zaleski, associate professor at USC’s School of Social Work, told The Huffington Post. “Even knowing what I know about rape culture, I didn’t expect so much hate and judgment and discriminatory attitudes and othering ― there was a lot of othering.” (...)

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Panel Addresses Issues of Sexual Assault in the Military

Daily Bruin  


In her presentation, Zaleski discussed the Rape of Nanking – a 1937 military campaign during which Japanese soldiers invaded the capital of China and murdered and raped Chinese civilians. She also talked about the My Lai Massacre, during which U.S. Army soldiers murdered Vietnamese civilians. (...)

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Mental Health Experts Say Military Culture Condones Sexual Trauma

Independent Voter Network  


When asked why sex offenders might be drawn to the military, Dr. Kristen Zaleski, Ph. D., said: “They have a captive audience. A sexual predator in the military has it easy at the moment. No sexual offender registry exists to alert service members or military command.” (...)

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81 Percent of Military Sexual Assaults Against Men Go Unreported

Independent Voter Network  


“The issue with men being raped, whether civilian or military, is stigma,” said Kristen Zaleski, Ph.D., who works with victims of MST — previously through the VA and now in private practice. “The perpetrator is rarely homosexual or looking for sexual release.” (...)

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Can Social Work Students Learn Empathy?



Zaleski says that many of the students interviewed spoke about the value of education and empathic modelling when developing their own sense of empathy. Like Thompson, students shared how class discussions on issues like generational violence and poverty helped them become less judgmental. Some highlighted the personal impact of caring professors. (...)

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Articles & Publications (9)

Women’s Journey to Empowerment in the 21st Century: A Transnational Approach. Oxford University Press

Zaleski, K., Enrile, A., Weiss, E., & Wang, X.


In Press

2nd Edition Understanding and Treating Military Sexual Trauma. Springer

Zaleski, K.


2nd Edition Understanding and Treating Military Sexual Trauma.

The Lived Experience of Child Marriage in the United States. In Review

Wahi, A., Zaleski, K.L, Lampe, J., Bevan, P., & Koski, A.


The Lived Experience of Child Marriage in the United States.

Empathy, Racist Attitudes, and Sexual Experiences: Exploration of factors associated with college sexual assault. In Review

Klemmer, C., Brammer, A., & Zaleski, K.


Empathy, Racist Attitudes, and Sexual Experiences: Exploration of factors associated with college sexual assault.

Posting the Story of your Sexual Assault Online: A phenomenological study of the aftermath. In Review

Gundersen, K.K. & Zaleski, K.L.


Posting the Story of your Sexual Assault Online: A phenomenological study of the aftermath.

Empathy in Social Work Education Contemporary Behavioral Health Care

Kristen L. Zaleski, Juan Carlos Araque, Kimberly Finney, Bianca Harper, Jennifer Lewis, Michal Sela Amit, Caroline Tamas, Jennifer McCrea Steele, and Jessica Castronuo


Empathy is at the core of the provider-consumer relationship in social work; without it, successful outcomes for psychological treatment are unlikely (APA Presidential Task Force, 2005). The use of empathy is considered an essential part of the professional encounter and a standard in providing ethical care. Therefore it is expected and assumed that the mental health practitioner possesses the ability to be empathetic and that s/he is capable of providing empathetic social work services to clients who are experiencing physical, psychological, and/or emotional pain.

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Grounding Judith Herman’s Trauma Theory within Interpersonal Neuroscience and Evidence-Based Practice Modalities for Trauma Treatment Smith College Studies in Social Work

Kristen L. Zaleski, Daniel K. Johnson, Jessica T. Klein


In 1992, Judith Herman published her seminal work, Trauma and Recovery, which outlined new concepts for understanding, defining, and treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although written over two decades ago, Herman’s work is still considered an essential work in the field of traumatology. This article links Herman’s central concepts of terror, hyperarousal, constriction, and intrusion with neurobiology of trauma.

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Exploring rape culture in social media forums Computers in Human Behavior

Kristen L.Zaleski, Kristin K. Gundersen, Jessica Baes, Ely Estupinian, Alyssa Vergara


Current research has yet to examine the phenomenon of rape culture, particularly within social media forums. The present study investigated the attitudes about rape, rapists, and gender-based violence within the comments section of newspaper articles reporting about rape and sexual assault.

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Alice in Wonderland: Exploring the Experiences of Female Service Members With a Pregnancy Resulting From Rape Social Work in Mental Health

Kristen L. Zaleski, Lori S. Katz


Currently, no clinical research has ever been conducted to examine what, if any, traumatic effects take place when pregnancy results from a sexual assault during military service. The present study investigated the emotional experience and impact of rape and pregnancy on women serving in the military.

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