Bodies in Evidence: Race, Gender, and Science in Sexual Assault Adjudication (Paperback)

Bodies in Evidence: Race, Gender, and Science in Sexual Assault Adjudication By Heather R. Hlavka, Sameena Mulla Cover Image
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Winner, 2021-2022 AES Senior Book Prize, awarded by the American Ethnological Society

Honorable Mention, Senior Book Prize of the Association for Feminist Anthropology

Uncovers how the process of sexual assault adjudication reinforces inequality and becomes a public spectacle of violence

For victims in sexual assault cases, trials rarely result in justice. Instead, the courts drag defendants, victims, and their friends and family through a confusing and protracted public spectacle. Along the way, forensic scientists, sexual assault nurse examiners, and police officers provide their insight and expertise, shaping the story that emerges for the judge and jury. These expert narratives intersect with the stories of victims, witnesses, and their communities to reproduce our cultural understandings of sexual violence, but too often this process results in reinscribing racial, gendered, and class inequalities.

Bodies in Evidence draws on observations of over 680 court appearances in Milwaukee County's felony sexual assault courts, as well as interviews with judges, attorneys, forensic scientists, jurors, sexual assault nurse examiners, and victim advocates. It shows how forensic science helps to propagate public misunderstandings of sexual violence by bestowing an aura of authority to race and gender stereotypes and inequalities. Expert testimony reinforces the idea that sexual assault is physically and emotionally recognizable and always leaves material evidence. The court's reliance on the presence of forensic evidence infuses these very familiar stereotypes and myths about sexual assault with new scientific authority.

Powerful, unflinching, and at times heartbreaking, Bodies in Evidence reveals the human cost of sexual assault adjudication, and the social cost we all bear when investing in forms of justice that reproduce inequality and racial injustice.

About the Author


Heather R. Hlavka (Author) Heather R. Hlavka is Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Sciences at the Klinger College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette University. She has published many articles in Gender & Society, Law & Society Review, Violence Against Women, and Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. Sameena Mulla (Author) Before she joined the Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Emory University in 2021, Sameena Mulla was Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette University. She is the author of The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses and Sexual Assault Intervention, which won the Society for Applied Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association's Margaret Mead Award.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781479809660
ISBN-10: 1479809667
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication Date: November 9th, 2021
Pages: 312
Language: English