Gender & Society
Children remain largely absent from sociolegal scholarship on sexual violence. Taking an intersectional approach to the analysis of attorneys’ strategies during child sexual assault trials, this article argues that legal narratives draw on existing gender, racial, and age stereotypes to present legally compelling evidence of credibility. This work builds on Crenshaw’s focus on women of color, emphasizing the role of structures of power and inequality in constituting the conditions of children’s experiences of adjudication. Using ethnographic observations of courtroom jury trials, transcripts, and court records, three narrative themes of child credibility emerged: invisible wounds, rebellious adolescents, and dysfunctional families. Findings show how attorneys use these themes to emphasize the child’s unmarked body, imperceptible emotional responses, rebellious character, and harmful familial environments. The current study fills a gap in sexual assault research by moving beyond trial outcomes to address cultural narratives within the court that are inextricably embedded in intersectional dimensions of power and the reproduction of social status.
Powell, Amber J.; Hlavka, Heather; and Mulla, Sameena A., "Intersectionality and Credibility in Child Sexual Assault Trials" (2017). Social and Cultural Sciences Faculty Research and Publications. 208.