Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse in Relationships

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Susan B. Sorenson, PhD

Professor of Social Policy, Professor of Health & Societies
Executive Director, Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse

Professor Susan B. Sorenson has a unique interdisciplinary background in epidemiology, sociology, and psychology. She moved to Penn in 2006 after more than 20 years at the UCLA School of Public Health. Since 1986, she has taught a graduate course in family and sexual violence – the first violence prevention course in a school of public health in the nation. She currently teaches three courses that she developed: Foundations of Public Health, Public Health and Violence, and Violence in Relationships through the Life Span.


A primary focus of her work is the social context in which violence occurs, specifically, the norms that shape whether and how violence is tolerated. With over 150 publications to her credit, Professor Sorenson has published widely in the epidemiology and prevention of violence, including the areas of homicide, suicide, sexual assault, child abuse, battering, and firearms. 


Professor Sorenson’s contributions to science include framing violence against women as a public health issue, studying firearms as a consumer product, and applying multiple and emerging research methods to the study of the epidemiology and prevention of violence. Policy implications are a core aspect of her research. 


In addition to her academic work, Dr. Sorenson has served on the board of directors and advisory boards of local community-based organizations, state government agencies, and university injury prevention centers. In 1991, she co-founded the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, a broad coalition of agencies and individuals which continued for over a generation. She has provided invited testimony on violence prevention at the local, state, and federal levels.


Professor Sorenson was a member of the National Academy of Science’s Panel on Research on Violence Against Women, a consultant to President Clinton’s National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, a consultant to UNICEF’s May 2000 report on Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls, a member of the advisory panel for the 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence, and the author of a 2008 WHO report on health indicators of violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. Most recently, she was a member of the 2013 Institute of Medicine committee Priorities for a Public Health Research Agenda to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-related Violence. Professor Sorenson currently is serving a second term as a member of the Committee on Law and Justice at the National Academy of Sciences.  She also serves on the advisory board for the Biden Foundation in their efforts to end violence against women.





Cardoso LF, Sorenson SB, Webb O, Landers S. Recent and emerging technologies: Implications for women’s safety. Technology in Society, January 2019, in press.


Schut R, Sorenson SB, Gelles RJ. Police response to violence and conflict between parents and their minor children. Journal of Family Violence, posted online July 2019.




Sorenson SB, Spear D. New data on intimate partner violence and intimate relationships: Implications for gun laws and federal data collection. Preventive Medicine. 2018; 107:103-108,  



Sorenson SB, Schut R. Non-fatal gun use in intimate partner violence: A systematic review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 2018;19(4):431-442.


Sorenson SB. Guns in intimate partner violence: Comparing incidents by type of weaponJournal of Women’s Health (Larchmt). 2017 Mar;26(3):249-258.


Berk RA, Sorenson SB, Barnes G. Forecasting domestic violence: A machine learning approach to help inform arraignment decisions. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 2016; 13: 94-115.


Thomas KA, Sorenson SB, Joshi M. "Consent is good, joyous, sexy": A banner campaign to market consent to college studentsJournal of American College Health. 2016; 64(8):639-650.


Sorenson SB. Assessing views about gun violence reduction policy: A look at type of violence and expected effectiveness. Preventive Medicine, 2015, 79: 50-54.


Sorenson SB, Joshi M, Sivitz E. Knowing a sexual assault victim or perpetrator: A stratified random sample of undergraduates at one university. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2014; 29: 394-416.


Sorenson SB, Joshi M, Sivitz E. A systematic review of the epidemiology of nonfatal strangulation, a human rights and health concern. American Journal of Public Health, 2014; 104: e54–e61.


Sorenson SB, Shi R, Zhang J, Xue J. Self-presentation on the web: Agencies serving abused and assaulted women. American Journal of Public Health, 2014; 104: 702–707.


Thomas KA, Joshi M, Sorenson SB. “Do you know what it feels like to drown?”: Strangulation as coercive control in intimate relationships. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2014; 38, 124-137.



More publications by Professor Sorenson can be found here.

Link to CV