Professor Leigh Goodmark –  ‘Imperfect Victims: How the Criminal Legal System Punishes Survivors of Gender-Based Violence’

Abstract:  For the last forty years, the criminal legal system has been the primary societal response to gender-based violence (particularly intimate partner violence, rape and sexual assault, and human trafficking).  Anti-violence advocates tout legislative victories, increased intervention and enforcement by police and prosecutors, and longer penalties as proof of society’s dedication to ensuring that those who do violence will be held accountable.  But one of the serious unintended consequences—perhaps the most serious unintended consequence–of those efforts has been the increased rates of arrest, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration of those who these changes were meant to protect: victims of violence.  Criminalization harms victims of gender-based violence by using laws against them which were intended to benefit them; by empowering police, prosecutors, and other government agents to harm them in the enforcement of those laws; by creating an expectation that victims will turn to the criminal legal system, justifying harsher penalties for those who choose not to or cannot do so; and by reinforcing stereotypes about victims and punishing them when they fail to conform to those stereotypes.  The fixes that we have tried to mitigate those harms have not worked well, if at all, because the criminal legal system is working in exactly the way that it was meant to function: policing and punishing the behavior of “non-conforming” people, particularly people of color, and then “disappearing” those people.  As long as criminalization is our primary response to gender-based violence, survivors will always be in danger of punishment.  The only sure way to protect survivors from criminalization is abolition. 

Biography: Leigh Goodmark is the Marjorie Cook Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Frances King Carey School of Law.  Professor Goodmark co-directs the Clinical Law Program, teaches Family Law, Gender and the Law, and Gender Violence and the Law, and directs the Gender Violence Clinic.  Professor Goodmark is the author ofDecriminalizing Domestic Violence: A Balanced Policy Approach to Intimate Partner Violence (University of California Press 2018) and A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System (New York University 2012), which was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of 2012.  She is the co-editor of Comparative Perspectives on Gender Violence: Lessons from Efforts Worldwide (Oxford 2015).  Professor Goodmark’s work on intimate partner violence has appeared in numerous journals, law reviews, and publications, including Violence Against Women, the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, the Yale Journal on Law and Feminism, and the New York Times. From 2003 to 2014, Professor Goodmark taught at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where she served as Director of Clinical Education and Co-director of the Center on Applied Feminism.  From 2000 to 2003, Professor Goodmark directed the Children and Domestic Violence Project at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.  Before joining the Center on Children and the Law, Professor Goodmark represented women and children in the District of Columbia in custody, visitation, child support, restraining order, and other civil matters.  Professor Goodmark is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford Law School.

Professor Jill Marshall and Dr Josephine Ndagire, – ‘Infusing Law with the Voices of Survivors of Conflict Related Sexual Violence: a Ugandan project’ 

Abstract: Excluding the voices of marginalised women who have experienced conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) is against principles of international human rights law. This prevents an inclusive formulation, interpretation, and implementation of policy and law which are structurally and procedurally important to social justice, an equitable world, and fundamental to UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN development programme. Scholars have highlighted the continuing and always failing struggle to close the gap between an abstract universal understanding of what is means to be human and the particular or concrete citizen (e.g. Benhabib 2002). This paper draws on the experiences of women who have suffered from CRSV with particular reference to research conducted as a result of a Global Challenges Research grant in Uganda in 2019-2021.  It sets out briefly some aspects of the relevant international framework available and argues for the relevant laws to be filled or infused with survivors’ voices. We argue the law needs to be infused with the rooted particular, unique lived experiences of those traditionally excluded and silenced. We set out some ways to avoid the tendencies to apply a ‘top down’ notion of what is good for all humans that can constrain, restrict and reduce our humanity and erase the individual lived experiences of many, yet retain the positive elements of universal equality in international law with its potential for liberation, individual agency and empowerment. 

Biography: Professor Jill Marshall is a full time Law Professor in the Department of Law and Criminology in the School of Law and Social Sciences at Royal Holloway where she has worked since August 2017. Her previous appointments were at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Leicester. Before becoming an academic, she was a senior international litigation lawyer. Professor Marshall is an expert in feminist legal theory and the human rights of women. Her work connects law with justice, humanity and care, particularly in relation to women’s lives, and interrogates the role law plays in creating, representing and protecting certain aspects of our identity and personal freedom. She has written widely on these topics including three monographs, Humanity, Freedom and FeminismHuman Rights Law and Personal Identity; and Personal Freedom through Human Rights Law? Dr. Marshall’s current projects include working on a GCRF network grant in Uganda; confidentiality in giving birth in times of conflict and peace, Islamic and other dress bans, and law and humanities research using the work of Georges Perec.

3 March 2021, 14:00 GMT
To Register Click HERE <https://lexseminarseries.simpletix.co.uk/e/6389> (space is limited)

Dr Max Morris* – Bareback Sex in the Age of Preventative Medication: Rethinking the ‘Harms’ of HIV Transmission

Abstract: The experiences of people living with HIV have been transformed over recent years. Advances in medical science have made the virus a manageable chronic condition, while eliminating the risk of onward transmission for those with access to treatment, something referred to as TasP (treatment as prevention) or U=U (undetectable equals untransmissible). More recently, the availability of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), alongside PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), through the NHS has created the conditions for condomless sexual encounters to take place without the fear of HIV transmission associated with previous decades. Despite this, the criminal law has continued to frame HIV in terms of personal responsibility and bodily autonomy within the dominant narratives of danger, disease, and out-dated science. Doctrinal law has failed to keep pace with social and scientific change. Therefore, in this article, we provide a re-examination of the criminal issues relating to HIV transmission within this new landscape, arguing that it necessitates a shift in attitude, policy and doctrine. We specifically argue that HIV transmission does not meet the appropriate harm threshold to constitute GBH and that if criminal law is ultimately about preventing or regulating harm, the ongoing criminalisation of HIV transmission is counter to that aim.

*co-authored paper with Professor Chris Ashford and Mr Alex Powell:


Chris Ashford is Professor of Law and Society at Northumbria University. He has published widely on the area of law and sexuality and legal education. A queer theorist; his research has focused upon challenging normative assumptions about sexuality, particularly in relation to public sex, barebacking, pornography, and relationship structures. He is Editor of The Law Teacher: the International Journal of Legal Education and is Consultant Editor of the International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law. He was one of the founding members of the Porn Studies Editorial Board (2014-2018) and is a member of the REF2021 Panel for Law.

Dr Max Morris is a Lecturer in Criminology at Kingston University London who has published research on the criminalisation of HIV, homosexuality and sex work, experiences of sexual minority students and young people, and expressions of gender and sexuality on social media platforms such as Grindr and YouTube. As a critical criminologist, their research is informed by postmodern theories to understand the role of culture, law and politics in constructing identities. They are a board member of the Sex Work Research Hub and associate board member of Sociological Research Online.

Mr Alex Powell is a Teaching Fellow in Law at Oxford Brookes University and a PhD Candidate at City, University of London. His research deploys queer and postmodern methodologies to understand, critique, and evaluate the interrelations of gender, sexuality and state institutions. He has published research on discourses of sexuality, constitutional theory, and violence within adminstrative processes. His PhD focuses on the lived experiences of sexually diverse refugees and asylum seekers.

To Register Click HERE <https://lexseminarseries.simpletix.co.uk/e/653977. April 2021, 14:00 GMT (space is limited)

Professor Vanessa Munro and Professor Sharon Cowan – Sexual Histories and Sexual Futures: Reforming Rape Trials in Scotland

Abstract: Despite being part of the UK, with its own legal system, semi-autonomous political scene and distinctive socio-cultural landscape, Scotland provides a series of unique challenges in relation to the prosecution of sexual offences. In this session, Professor Sharon Cowan (Edinburgh) will discuss emerging evidence regarding the use of private data and sexual history evidence in Scottish rape trials, highlighting what needs to be done to better protect complainers’ rights in admissibility decision-making. Professor Vanessa Munro (Warwick) will then reflect on the potential impact, particularly in rape cases, of a Scottish criminal jury system, which – unlike most common law juries – asks 15 members to deliberate towards a simple majority (c.f. unanimous) consensus between one of 3 potential verdicts (guilty, not guilty and not proven).


Vanessa Munro is a Professor of Law at the University of Warwick. Her research focusses on applying feminist theoretical critique and grounded empirical analysis to criminal law and criminal justice policy, in particular in the area of gender based violence including sexual offences and domestic abuse. Most recently, she has been a co-ordinator (with Sharon Cowan & Chloë Kennedy) of the Scottish Feminist Judgments Project, and has worked with Refuge to develop understand of the links between domestic abuse and suicidality within its client based. Having conducted a number of ESRC funded mock jury studies exploring rape deliberation in England, in 2019, Vanessa worked with James Chalmers, Fiona Leverick & IPSOS Mori Scotland on a large-scale trial reconstruction study funded by the Scottish Government. This shed insight – amongst other things – into mock jurors’ interpretation of Scotland’s unique ‘not proven’ verdict in rape cases; and subsequent to that, Vanessa conducted further research – supported by Rape Crisis Scotland – to explore complainers’ experiences of receiving this verdict in their rape cases. Vanessa is currently working (with Sharon Cowan & Eamon Keane) on the use of sexual history and character evidence in Scottish rape trials, as well as on projects with Siobhan Weare & Lorna O’Doherty on sexual violence survivors’ justice journeys during Covid; work with Vanessa Bettinson and Mandy Burton on lay understandings of coercive control; and a stream of work with several colleagues on emotional labour and its impacts in the criminal courtroom and in support provision in the VAWG sector.

Professor Sharon Cowan is Professor of Feminist and Queer Legal Studies at Edinburgh University. Her research interests include: gender, law and sexuality, including transgender legal issues, and queer legal theory; criminal law, particularly projects on sex work, sexual offences, domestic violence and criminalisation theories; and asylum and refugee law. She is a co-ordinator on the Scottish Feminist Judgments Project, contributing to growing global body of work which aims to imagine how important legal cases might have been decided differently if the judge had adopted a feminist perspective. She is currently working on a socio-legal project looking at the impact of equality laws on transgender people; and a Scottish Government funded project (with Vanessa Munro and Eamon Keane) on the use of sexual history and character evidence in Scottish sexual offences trials. 

5. May 2021, 13:00 GMT and 14:00 CET

Professor Alison Phipps-‘(How) could we develop an abolitionists approach to sexual harassment and violence in universities and other institutions?’

Abstract: This facilitated discussion, with an introduction from Alison Phipps, will explore the issue of sexual harassment and violence in universities and other institutions. This issue has been on the agenda in the UK since the 2010 report Hidden Marks (produced by the National Union of Students), but despite action taken by NUS, Universities UK and the Office for Students, there has been little progress. The progress that has been made has been to do with policy compliance and punishing ‘bad’ individuals, rather than tackling the intersecting inequalities, power relations and institutional cultures that produce sexual harassment and violence in the first place. Phipps’ work, carried out within an abolition feminism framework that draws upon Angela Davis and other Black feminist thinkers, has pointed out some of the limitations of existing governmental and institutional approaches. In this discussion we will explore: How (if at all) might an abolitionist approach to sexual violence be implemented in universities and other institutions? What role (if any) should legal and institutional governance play in eradicating sexual violence? Can we work towards transformative justice in institutions which are commodities rather than communities? Where should we start?  This session will be chaired by Dr Nikki Godden-Rasul, Newcastle Law School. 

Biography: Professor Alison Phipps has been a scholar-activist in the movement against sexual violence for the past fifteen years. She co-authored the 2013 National Union of Students report That’s What She Said, and her latest book is entitled Me, Not You: the trouble with mainstream feminism (2020: Manchester University Press). She has published widely in journals including Feminist TheorySociologyFeminist Formations and Gender and Education, and has written for media publications including the Guardian, Open Democracy and Times Higher Education. She is currently Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Sussex.

2. June 2021, 14:00 GMT

NO SEMINARS Between June and October 2021