Criminal Justice Research Centre

Rape Symposium

Rape: Challenging the Orthodoxy


April 2015

University of Nottingham School of Law





This symposium will discuss the broad and largely uncontested claim that the criminal justice system, and society at large, fails rape victims. Such a conclusion seems almost irresistible given the reportedly low conviction rates for rape.

Explanations for the disparity between the prevalence of rape and its censure essentially boil down to gender bias: rape supportive attitudes, sex-role stereotypes, and gendered ‘myths’ - beliefs and assumptions that work to the prejudice of rape victims. 

Over recent decades, these claims have prompted significant reform to criminal law and procedure, and criminal justice policy and practice. Despite a number of reforms aimed at increasing the conviction rate for rape, rape conviction rates have failed to respond as desired by reformers. This reinforces continuing criticism and demands that ‘something (more) must be done’. Arguably, such claims have now achieved the status of what might plausibly be described as the mainstream, or orthodox, perspective on rape.

Our objective in holding this symposium is to bring together an internationally, institutionally, and disciplinarily diverse group of invited scholars, commentators, and relevant stakeholders, in order to subject this now firmly established, orthodox account of social and legal responses to rape to robust critical scrutiny. 

The aim is to provide a forum in which to explore and expose the philosophical limitations, theoretical blind-spots, and methodological shortcomings, if any, underpinning this account, to examine their implications for the orthodoxy’s normative claims and empirical assertions, and, ultimately, to reinvigorate and reorient contemporary debate and related reform agenda(s) surrounding rape.  In a culture in which a number of so-called ‘truths’ about rape are seen as beyond challenge, we aim to host a discussion in which full and frank robust exchange is not only possible, but promoted.  We are hoping to publish the symposium proceedings in an edited collection.


April 2015


School of Law, University of Nottingham

Organised by

Helen Reece, Assistant Professor of Law, London School of Economics

Candida Saunders, Assistant Professor of Law, The University of Nottingham

Hosted by

Criminal Justice Research Centre

Funded by

 School of Law


Department of Law

  LSE logo


Confirmed Speakers

Further speakers to be announced

Criminal Justice Research Centre

School of Law
Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

+44 (0)115 846 6239