This essay argues that neuroscientific knowledge of trauma should be utilized to address injustices experienced by survivors of sexual assault (SA) in the courtroom and introduces a new feminist and victim-centered bioethical framework. Survivors face several injustices during a SA trial. Rape myths and victim stereotypes, which stem from gender discrimination, create unrealistic expectations for survivors’ behaviors and engender epistemic injustices. Other injustices are inherent to SA trials. Notably, the justice system fails to protect survivors and actually harms them by granting them little agency while risking secondary victimization. Many injustices experienced by survivors are linked to their reactions to trauma during and after the SA. However, neuroscientists have an extensive understanding of trauma, and they shed light on its mechanisms, effects, and consequences. Neuroscientific knowledge of trauma can improve survivors’ experience in the courtroom through two core means: educating stakeholders and implementing trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed practices in the justice system. A traditional evidence-based framework aims to balance the defendant’s rights and society’s interest in justice, hence eclipsing the survivor’s interests. An evidential framework appears inefficient for discussing survivors’ experiences in the courtroom. Consequently, a new feminist and victim-centered bioethical framework is introduced as it allows for a focus on survivors’ health needs and well-being without compromising the justice system’s need for fairness.

Author Biography

Mathilde Genest holds a MSc. in Bioethics & Society from King’s College London and a B.A. & Sc. in Cognitive Science and Philosophy from McGill University. Her research interests lie at the intersections of health, ethics, gender inequalities, and public policy as well as neuroethics, systemic injustices and biases . She is committed to interdisciplinary and feminist approaches to research. In the future, Mathilde aims to conduct further research in bioethics on sexual and gendered violence, trauma, and epistemic injustices.