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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Evidence and Victim Experience in Sexual and Domestic Violence cases: The approach of the feminist judge

14th March 2016, 17:30 to 18:30, Penthouse Suite, Collingwood College, Professor Heather Douglas, (University of Queensland, Australia)


One of the enduring problems with the legal process identified by feminist legal scholars is the way women’s evidence of sexual violence is excluded, marginalised and disbelieved. Myths and stereotypes have developed around ‘real rape’. Legal rules were developed, initially by judges, which reflected and sustained these myths and stereotypes. In this context, Christine Boyle speculated in a 1985 article on what difference a feminist judge might be able to make in a sexual assault case. Interviews conducted as part of the Australian Feminist Judgments project provide an opportunity to further explore the question of what difference a feminist judge might be able to make in a sexual assault (or domestic violence) case. 41 judges agreed to be interviewed on the basis of their identification as feminists. Many discussed the challenges they face in cases involving sexual and domestic violence and how they have responded to these challenges. The paper considers how they approach their role in relation to the victim’s evidence in sexual and domestic violence cases, and the range of possibilities that exist at different levels of the court hierarchy. Such possibilities include different approaches to their role in hearing and assessing victims’ evidence, in managing the courtroom and controlling the admissibility of evidence and cross-examination. They report different approaches to language and try to craft particular messages in sentencing.

This lecture is free and open to all.


Details about Professor Heather Douglas

Directions to Penthouse Suite, Collingwood College

Map - Collingwood College is denoted as building No. 6