Criminal Justice Forum: Ruined: Language Use and Choice by Judges at Sentencing in Rape and Sexual Assault Cases

Thursday, September 29, 2022 - 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: 1801 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44115 (Moot Court Room)

Judges play a critical role in one of the most important states of a criminal case’s adjudication—sentencing. While there have been substantial limitations placed on the discretion judges can exercise in devising punishments, there are little to none on what judges say at such hearings when articulating their rationales for the sentences they impose on convicted defendants. In her lecture, Professor Romero will examine the language judges use when sentencing defendants convicted rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse that describes victims of those crimes and the harms they have sustained, especially language that describes victims as “ruined,” “broken,” or “destroyed.” Professor Romero argues that the use of such language, while apparently meant to be empathetic, only serves to uphold misogynistic understandings of rape and sexual assault and actively harms victims. Judges trying to justify harsh sentences for defendants convicted of sex crimes also engage in shaming and exploitation of victims when saying that defendants have left victims “ruined” at sentencing.  

Guest Speaker

Maybell Romero, Felder-Fayard Associate Professor of Law at the Tulane University School of Law

CLE credit: 1 hour

Category: CLE Programs, General, Public Lectures

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