KRISTEN ZALESKI is a sexual assault victim advocate, researcher, professor and psychotherapist in Southern California. Her decade-long work with sexual assault survivors spans inpatient and outpatient settings, and she has a dual specialty in civilian and military sexual trauma.
Zaleski has published research on treatment for sexual assault-related post-traumatic stress disorder and focused her dissertation research on the trauma of becoming pregnant from a rape during military service. Her book, Understanding and Treating Military Sexual Trauma, was released in April 2015, and it was showcased at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books that same year. Her current research has centered on the incidence of rape culture in social media as well as the issue of empathy in social work education.
Zaleski continues to explore clinical phenomena in the areas of health social work, LGBTQI experiences, empathy, mothering, vicarious trauma and attachment-related trauma through a neurobiological lens. She also maintains a private practice in Los Angeles.
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)
Industry Expertise (6)
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)
Graduation Speaker (professional)
University of Southern California
Media Appearances (5)
Comment Sections Are Cesspools Of Rape Culture, Research Finds
“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.” (...)
Panel Addresses Issues of Sexual Assault in the Military
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. (...)
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.” (...)
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.” (...)
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. (...)
Articles & Publications (9)
Zaleski, K., Enrile, A., Weiss, E., & Wang, X.
2nd Edition Understanding and Treating Military Sexual Trauma.
Wahi, A., Zaleski, K.L, Lampe, J., Bevan, P., & Koski, A.
The Lived Experience of Child Marriage in the United States.
Klemmer, C., Brammer, A., & Zaleski, K.
Empathy, Racist Attitudes, and Sexual Experiences: Exploration of factors associated with college sexual assault.
Gundersen, K.K. & Zaleski, K.L.
Posting the Story of your Sexual Assault Online: A phenomenological study of the aftermath.
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.
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.
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.
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.