Mon, Oct 2, 2023

12 PM – 1 PM PDT (GMT-7)

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Law Building (LAW), LAW 3750

401 East Peltason Drive, Irvine , CA 92697, United States



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The UCI Initiative to End Family Violence welcomes Maybell Romero (Tulane University Law School) to discuss "Ruined and Shamed."

Judges play a critical role in one of the most important stages 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. This Article examines the language judges use when sentencing defendants convicted of 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.” 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.

About Maybell Romero:
Maybell Romero is Felder-Fayard Associate Professor of Law at Tulane University Law School. She researches and teaches at the intersection of criminal law, criminal adjudication, and professional ethics. Much of her writing focuses on rural criminal legal systems and prosecutorial ethics, informed by her nearly 10 years of law practice as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and general practitioner in a small community in northern Utah. She has also started to expand her research agenda by writing about rape and sexual assault. Her work has featured in a variety of publications including the Georgetown Law Journal, the Washington University Law Review, the American Criminal Law Review, the Journal of Criminal Law Criminology, the University of Chicago Law Review Online, and The Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, among others.

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