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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Sexual Violence and Evidence: The Approach of the Feminist Judge


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’ and legal rules were developed, initially by judges, which reflected and sustained these myths and stereotypes. Scholars have speculated on whether a feminist judge might be able to make a difference in such cases. Interviews conducted with judicial officers provide an opportunity to explore further the question of whether, and how, a feminist judge might be able to make a difference. This article draws on 41 interviews conducted with Australian judicial officers to consider how, as judges with a feminist world view, they see their role in relation to evidence issues in sexual violence cases. It begins by reviewing some of the ongoing issues scholars have identified about the prosecution of sexual offences, before outlining some of the strategies a feminist judge might employ in this context. The article then considers the strategies employed by interviewees in their judicial practice before, in the final section, drawing some conclusions about the role of feminist judging in cases involving sexual violence.

  • Insights Paper

Volume 10 Article 3