Sexual Assault Investigation and Victimization

Sexual Assault Investigation and Victimization Online Graduate Certificate

About the Sexual Assault Investigation and Victimization Certificate

Investigating and supporting victims of sex-based crimes requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Forensic science, legal knowledge and compassion for the victim are key to successful practices. Prepare to meet the legal standards for those working in the sex crimes field with a graduate-level certificate from PennWest California.

In PennWest California’s 15-credit Sexual Assault Investigation and Victimization program, students learn how evidence is collected, identified and processed in these types of investigations.

Courses are delivered entirely online, a convenient option for law enforcement professionals who are balancing their studies with career and personal responsibilities.

The curriculum focuses on:

  • Legal issues, so practitioners can meet the legal standards for high-profile prosecutions of sex crimes.
  • Forensic science knowledge, so the investigation can withstand the high level of scrutiny applied in these cases.
  • Compassionate understanding of sex crime victimization, so investigators can work effectively with survivors of sexual assaults.

Students can complete the five courses required for the certificate within one year.


Specialized Skills: The certificate program is designed for mature and scholarly students who are seeking specialized courses in sexual assault investigations and sex crime victim advocacy. In addition to investigative skills, courses focus on law, science and forensic applications; digital imaging, forensic photography and the law; and polygraphs and lie detection.

In-depth Study: As part of the certificate program, a 3-credit independent study course in law and public policy encourages students to develop advanced research, writing and analytical thinking skills as they explore a substantive or procedural legal problem. Students work closely with a faculty member to prepare, execute and submit the proposed project for departmental review.

Post-baccalaureate certificate: Students seeking admission to the graduate certificate program in Sexual Assault  Investigation and Victimization must have completed a bachelor’s degree with a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

Learn more about applying


Students complete PennWest California’s certificate program in sexual assault investigation entirely online, making it a convenient option for working professionals.
Credits required to complete the graduate certificate in Sexual Assault Investigation and Victimization.


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Certificate Benefits

The skills taught in this program are necessary for the legally sustainable identification of defendants in accordance with the demands of high-profile prosecutions. The program also focuses on the legal issues related to victims of sex crimes, so investigators, victim advocates and other professionals can meet the legal standards for prosecutions while maintaining a level of compassion for victims.

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Graduate Outcomes

This multidisciplinary program offers specialized knowledge and skills for a wide range of advocacy and law enforcement professionals. The certificate program’s victim-based approach promotes integration among the numerous entities involved in investigating sex-based crimes and supporting survivors of sexual assault.


Curriculum and Related Programs



Course Credits
LAW 702  Law, Science and Forensic Applications 3
LAW 730  Independent Study in Law and Public Policy 3
PCJ 750  Sexual Assault Investigations  3
PCJ 752  Digital Imaging, Forensic Photography and the Law 3
PCJ 755  Polygraph and Lie Detection 3
Total 15

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Admissions Requirements

Regular Admission Requirements

  • Regionally Accredited Bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Official transcripts from a regionally accredited undergraduate institution

Conditional Admission Requirements

  • Conditional Admission may be granted with the following modifications of the Regular Admissions Requirements:
    • Regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.9 and below will be reviewed for a decision once the following documentation has been received:
      • Resume with contact information for three professional references with an overview of professional work experience
      • 500-word essay supporting the application
        • If admitted, students will be required to earn a 3.0 in their first term to remain in the program

Provisional Admission:
Applicants who have provided unofficial documentation of test scores, prerequisite courses, transcripts or lack of letter(s) of recommendation may be admitted provisionally.

This policy also applies to undergraduate students who apply for graduate admission pending bachelor degree completion. Upon receipt of all official documents, a student will be changed from Provisional Admission to either Regular Admission or Conditional Admission. Provisional Admission students may take classes for one term but will not be eligible for Federal Financial Aid.

How to Apply:

  • Complete the Graduate School Application
  • Submit the nonrefundable $35 Application Fee
  • Submit required documentation by mail or email:
    • Mail:

School of Graduate Studies and Research
PennWest California
Box 91
250 University Ave. 
California, PA 15419

For additional information:
Phone: 1.866.595.6348

Related Programs

M.S. in Legal Studies
PennWest California offers a Master of Science in Legal Studies with three concentrations:


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Specialized Education

Investigating sex-based crimes requires specialized training. Investigators must be aware of the proper procedures for collecting, identifying and processing evidence that may be unique to these types of crimes. Professionals also must act with sensitivity toward victims while ensuring due process for the accused. These challenges make targeted education in sexual assault investigation essential for those in law enforcement, child welfare, victim advocacy and related fields.

PennWest California Campus

Faculty Support

A dedicated faculty adviser provides academic and professional support to each student accepted into this certificate program. Faculty members – all current or former practitioners – are available to discuss and monitor students’ academic progress and offer expert advice on coursework and careers.


Sexual Assault Investigation and Victimization Faculty

Brian Kohlhepp, M.A.
Assistant Professor

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Dr. Emily M. Sweitzer
Professor, Director of Liberal Studies / Program Coordinator Social Deviance

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Dr. Christina A. Toras, J.D., M.A.
Professor, Legal Studies Program Coordinator, Director of the Institute for Law and Public Policy

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