What do Elder Abuse, Drug Treatment Courts and Opinion Writing Have in Common? Judicial Education About Sexual Violence Issues in Unexpected Places

In this interesting and important session, delicate topics were discussed and brought out into the open. The faculty, Lynn Hecht Schafran and Claudia J. Bayliff, discussed a very disturbing trend: The fact that the verbiage most commonly used to describe consensual sex is written in court decisions, newspaper articles, online blogs, and even spoken in news broadcasts to describe sexual violence against women and children. If this is a common occurrence in our community, it begs the question: “When judges use the language of consensual sex to describe sexual violence, what is the message to victims, offenders and the community?”

For judicial educators, this session was particularly useful because the National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) has developed several comprehensive in-person training modules and provides technical assistance to adapt these modules to specific jurisdictions or states. The presenters gave the participants in the audience a short sample of “How Language Helps Shape Our Response to Sexual Violence.”

Even this quick snippet of the training module opened the participant’s eyes to the blatant use of “consensual sex” language that seems to be pervasive in our culture in regard to sexual violence. An example of this would be using the phrase “the suspect had sex with the victim” in place of “the suspect is accused of raping the victim.” On NJEP’s website you can link to the National Judicial Education Program: Sexual Assault Resources. A description of the Program is below:

Understanding Sexual Violence is the overarching title of the materials NJEP has developed to educate the judicial, legal and criminal justice communities, as well as society at large, about sexual assault. These materials explore how rape and sexual assault cases can be handled so as to minimize retraumatization of victims without undermining defendants’ constitutional rights. All of these materials are appropriate for multidisciplinary use (legalmomentum.org, retrieved 9/1/2011).

The presenters, both of whom work for NJEP, passed out resources to the participants – a list of training modules (three different types) and resources that will potentially help judicial educators as they plan training events and conferences for the next year.

NJEP Resources (legalmomentun.org, retrieved 9/1/2011)

In-Person Training

  • Understanding Sexual Violence: The Judicial Response to Stranger and Nonstranger Rape and Sexual Assault (2005 Edition)
  • Understanding Sexual Violence: Prosecuting Adult Rape and Sexual Assault Cases

On-Line Course

  • Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse: Adjudicating this Hidden Dimension of Domestic Violence Cases

DVD Curricula

  • Understanding Sexual Violence: The Judge’s Role in Stranger and Nonstranger Rape and Sexual Assault Cases
  • Presenting Medical Evidence in an Adult Rape Trial
  • The Undetected Rapist
  • A Response to “The Undetected Rapist”