About Us

The mission of the Gender Violence Program (the “Program”) is to engage students in changing laws and policies that have allowed violence against women to continue unabated. To this end, the research and law reform program

  • Develops transformative legal policy that has implementable and practical solutions to combat gender violence.
  • Holds conferences and create legal scholarship that advances understanding of gender violence and looks for implementable and high impact solutions.
  • Works with people related to law enforcement and train young lawyers who will become advocates, eliminating gender violence and contribute to the field for decades to come.

By teaching students to understand and recognize gender violence, providing a legal framework for addressing and analyzing it, and giving students opportunities to engage in policy work and direct services to victims it contributes to the Harvard Law School mission “to educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society”.       

The major elements of the Program are: gender violence seminars, the development of student legal writing and scholarship, policy advocacy at every level of government, the Gender Violence Legal Policy Workshop made up of a core group of students, and conferences dedicated to cutting-edge gender violence legal and policy thinking.

The Program has helped hundreds of women and girls to find their voice and stand up for their rights.  We have contributed to pioneering policy innovations like preventing domestic violence homicide by enforcing restraining orders with GPS tracking, and utilizing the rights guaranteed to women under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act to tackle sexual assault on in schools.

SPECIFIC FOCUS AREAS OF THE PROGRAM

The Program is engaged with projects focusing on three key areas of gender violence:       

  • Policy work and direct services addressing campus sexual assault
  • Preventing domestic violence homicide through high-risk case management teams and GPS monitoring of offenders.
  • Legal policy reform related to the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children.

 

Campus Sexual Assault

 In 2007, Diane Rosenfeld, developed the nation’s first and still only seminar on Title IX and campus sexual assault.

In 2010 and 2011, Diane and several Program students produced a white paper on the potential of Title IX to address sexual assault on college campuses. Students presented the paper to Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali of the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. Assistant Secretary Ali credits the white paper as contributing to the Department’s release of the groundbreaking 2011 Dear Colleague Guidance on Title IX and student on student sexual assault.

In 2014, the Program submitted comments compiled by a team of Gender Violence Program students and researchers, also informed by many students from previous HLS Title IX classes to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Program Director Diane Rosenfeld is advising the White House Task Force, meeting regularly with the White House.

The program has advised schools on the creation of effective campus sexual assault policies and practices. It is also facilitating student participation in the “It’s on Us” campaign bringing White House advisors to interact with students and advising students on campaigns to combat campus sexual assault.

The program has also developed Peer-to-Peer Educational Initiatives on Sexual Respect, and successfully led trainings on college campuses. These trainings discuss the negative effects of pornography, alcohol and drug facilitated sexual assault, and avoiding misunderstandings regarding consent and wanted sexual activity.

Currently the program is mentoring students from Harvard on a digital problem solving initiative in creating technology to combat sexual assault and making data on sexual assault accessible and easily leveraged.

 

Domestic Violence Homicide

 The Program helped to develop the national model for prevention of domestic violence homicide through the use of GPS monitoring for high-risk domestic violence offenders. Through an initiative that Professor Diane Rosenfeld and Christina Bain worked on from 2004-2007 within the Governor’s Office, Massachusetts passed groundbreaking legislation that other states have continued to replicate.

Working with high-risk teams, advocacy groups, legislators, law enforcement agencies and others the Program has established a proven approach to improve our society’s response to domestic violence. In partnership with the Cindy Bischof Foundation and the Tiana Notice Foundation, the Program advocates for increased offender accountability and providing maximum safety for survivors of domestic abuse.

Diane Rosenfeld has been approached by the media for her work on the issue and has authored articles on high risk teams for the domestic violence report.  For example, Professor Rosenfeld has appeared on Nightline regarding the need for GPS monitoring and high-risk team state legislation nationwide.

 A paper authored by Gender Vi

olence Program student Maryum Jordan on domestic violence and mental health will be published in the upcoming edition of the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.

 Sex Trafficking

The Program works to stop sex trafficking and prostitution through providing legal services to women and girls attempting to escape prostitution, and training law enforcement on using their resources to curb demand. The Program supports the work of Demand Abolition on legal policy regarding girls and women in prostitution.

In 2009, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, in collaboration with Phil Malone, Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society; Virginia Greiman, Boston University School of Law, and Harvard Law School; and Judy Murciano, Harvard University and Harvard Law School, began embarking on research pertaining to understanding the use of the Internet and other electronic technologies in facilitating and combatting human trafficking in addition to examining state, federal, and international statutes as they relate to human trafficking and the Internet.                                                                                                                                            

As a result of our research and examination of the issue of human trafficking and the Internet, we have designed a state judicial training program to address gaps in this area. In 2011, Phil Malone, presented on laws related to Internet crimes and human trafficking at the Texas Center for the Judiciary’s Annual Family Violence Conference.  He emphasized the need for judges to have a basic knowledge of cybercrime, human trafficking, and electronic evidence.  We hope to pilot our full judicial training program in the coming year.  Christina Bain, former Director of the Kennedy School’s Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, would begin part-time with the Gender Violence Program in order to launch the judicial training and to continue this collaboration on research and policy recommendations. In addition, Christina would explore further research pertaining to legal policy and violence against women through the use of technology.

FUTURE INITIATIVES

  • Technology and Exploitation Initiative which would include a judicial training curriculum for U.S. state judges on online issues and human trafficking, in addition to timely research and publishing on legal policy and remedies to online exploitation in all forms.
  • Virtual legal clinic to provide access to legal resources for women nationally. This would be a joint collaboration with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
  • The program is currently working on addressing gender norms in education in India and creating tools that will assist Higher Educational Institutions in creating and implementing a gender sensitive policy to protect students from discrimination and sexual harassment. The assistance will include, curriculum building, auditing the existing policy and recommending policy change, creating training modules for faculty, students and staff and providing assistance in setting up sexual harassment committees.