Zoë Peterson, Ph.D.
Director of the Sexual Assault Research and Education Program
Dr. Zoë Peterson earned a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies from the University of Kansas in 2005 with a clinical internship at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. She then spent two years as a Clinical Research Postdoctoral Fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, where she conducted sexuality-related research and provided sex therapy to individuals and couples. In 2007, Dr. Peterson joined the Clinical Psychology faculty at UMSL.
Broadly, Dr. Peterson's teaching and research interests are in the areas of gender and human sexuality. More specifically, she has three primary and interrelated research interests:
- Understanding experiences of unwanted, coerced, and nonconsensual sex from the perspectives of both victims and perpetrators
- Investigating the role of cognitive and emotional ambivalence in individuals' sexual experiences
- Exploring the socially-constructed labels that individuals apply to their consensual and non-consensual sexual experiences and to their sexual identities (e.g., What counts as "sex"? What counts as "rape"? What is a "lesbian"? What is a "heterosexual"?)
Her research also considers the potentially important influence of gender within each of these topic areas.
Doctoral students in her laboratory have recently conducted research related to the following:
- men's and women’s perpetration of sexual aggression
- men's and women’s experiences as victims of child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault
- the role of traditional gendered sexual scripts on men’s and women’s sexual behavior
- individuals’ definitions of sexual terms (e.g., “cheating” and “masturbation”)
Doctoral clinical psychology students who are active in Dr. Peterson's lab are eligible to complete an emphasis in Gender and Diversity Studies or Trauma Studies, depending on the focus of their research.
Undergraduate research assistants contribute to the research in her lab in a variety of ways, including administering research protocols, conducting interviews, entering quantitative data, coding qualitative data, and conducting literature searches. If you are a Psychology major at UMSL who is interested in working in the lab, please contact her to see if she has openings.
Dr. Peterson is a member of the UMSL Safe Zone community. She welcomes and values diversity of all kinds in her lab and in the classroom.