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    03.11.19 Professor Cynthia Godsoe Discusses Sex Crimes in the #MeToo Era at Dean’s Law and Policy Series
    Professor Cynthia Godsoe

    Professor Cynthia Godsoe, an expert on family and criminal law, explored Sex Crimes in the #MeToo Era during the February Dean’s Law & Policy Series program. Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton moderated the discussion.

    According to recent statistics, criminal reports of rape in New York have increased by 22 percent, which is credited at least in part to the rise of awareness that the #MeToo movement has engendered. Likewise, reports of harassment have increased as well. Many would consider that a positive development, but is increased criminalization really a solution?

    Godsoe noted that society tends to rely on criminalization to deal with deep-seated social problems, such as substance abuse, that could bring about incidents of sexual misconduct. At the same time, it has been shown that criminalization is particularly bad at remedying sexual harm. Some punishments, such as residency requirements for sex offenders, have been found to actually increase recidivism rather than prevent further crimes.

    “We need to have a more honest conversation about why these crimes happen,” said Godsoe. “Locking all these people up is not going to fix it.”

    Godsoe presented some promising developments that serve as an alternative to a punitive model. Bystander training programs on college campuses that encourage people to intervene have shown to reduced incidents. In fact, members of fraternities and sports teams were found to be 40 percent less likely to commit assault themselves after going through this training.

    Likewise, restorative justice, in which the victim has the opportunity to have a conversation with the assailant and ask for an apology, has also produced positive results. “Because victims often know their assailants, they don’t always want harsh punishments, but they do want them to take responsibility and offer an apology,” said Godsoe. The process, Godsoe explained, came out of Native American rituals in small communities where people must continue working and living together, and it has proven to work.

    Godsoe teaches courses in family law, criminal law, children and the law, professional responsibility, and public interest lawyering. Her scholarship centers on the regulation of intimate behavior and gender roles through family and criminal law, encompassing topics including the path to marriage equality, the designation of victims and offenders in intimate violence, and the criminalization of non-conforming girls. Her recent work has appeared in the Yale Law Journal ForumTulane Law Review, and California Law Review Circuit, among others.

    The third and final installment of the Dean’s Law and Policy Series of the spring semester will be held April 3 with Professor Heidi Brown speaking on the topic: Mental Health in the Legal Profession.