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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Senate Document No. 36

    Document Title
    The Need for the Identification, Causes, Consequences, and Treatment of Sexual Assault in Professional Education Programs for Mental-Health Treatment Providers

    State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; Virginia Community College System

    Enabling Authority
    SJR 339 (Regular Session, 1993)

    Executive Summary
    Senate Joint Resolution No. 339, sponsored by Senator Janet Howell, directed the Council of Higher Education and the Virginia Community College System "to study the need for the identification, causes, consequences, and treatment of sexual assault in professional education programs for currently licensed and certified, and future practitioners of psychiatry, psychology, professional and other counseling, social work, and psychiatric and mental-health specialty nursing." The resolution also requested that the Department of Health Professions "develop a plan for the certification of providers of mental health and counseling services to sexual assault victims and offenders."

    A survey about undergraduate and graduate programs in Virginia revealed that academic coursework specific to the identification or treatment of sexual-assault victims and offenders appears sporadically and often only as a part of generic training in victimization theory and practice. Both public and private institutions, as well as many of the state's community colleges, responded with data about the inclusion of (but not concentration on) the topic of sexual assault in coursework.

    At the undergraduate and master's levels, degrees and licensure routinely require practicum experiences, but inclusion of specific experience related to treatment of those involved in sexual assault is not a part of the requirement. If a student engaged in a practicum happens to work with a sexual-assault victim or offender, it is a random occurrence. Occasionally at the doctoral level the area of sexual assault receives more time and attention, usually a required semester or six-month clinical rotation with only victim or offender clients.


    1. Institutions preparing students to be treatment providers in the mental-health professions or school guidance counselors should ensure that at least one course required for these students includes explicit and substantial instruction about the causes, consequences, and treatment of sexual assault.

    2. Coursework about sexual assault alone may not be adequate for preparing mental-health providers to offer treatment to victims or offenders. Institutions should include a component about the treatment of persons involved in a sexual assault in all supervised practicum experiences for mental-health providers.