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Campaigners call for law change over “rough sex gone wrong” defence claims in court

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Hollie Richardson
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Grance Millane trial

Following Grace Millane’s murder trial, a campaign group has outlined actions to take on changing laws around “rough sex gone wrong” defence claims.       

The use of “rough sex gone wrong” defence claims in courts has increased tenfold over the past two decades, campaign group We Can’t Consent to This has reported.

The news comes after the man on trial for the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane was found guilty. Throughout the trial, he claimed that Millane died accidentally as a result of extreme but consensual sex.

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According to We Can’t Consent to This, in the past decade alone, 30 women and girls have been killed in what was claimed to have been consensual violent sexual activity in the UK. Only 17 resulted in men being convicted of murder, nine led to manslaughter convictions and two ended in acquittals.

That is why the group is demanding action in the wake of Millane’s trial.

“All of us at We Can’t Consent to This are relieved to hear of the murder verdict and hope it may bring small comfort to Grace’s family and friends,” founder Fiona Mackenzie told Stylist.co.uk.

“Grace is now the 59th UK woman to be killed by a man in what he claims to be sex, that she requested, gone wrong. This is a just verdict this time, but just under half the time these claims work in getting a lesser charge like manslaughter, a lighter sentence, or the woman’s death not being treated as a crime at all. Even where these men [are] convicted of murder, they use the women’s sexual history against her, their claims repeated in headlines. We must stop blaming women for their own homicides.

“There is also an urgent need for media guidelines on reporting of these cases. We Can’t Consent to This will consult with families and friends of these women, to ensure that reporting of these cases does not repeat what we saw in headlines on Grace’s death.”

Grace Millane
Grace Millane was he 59th woman to be killed in a case that used the "rough sex defence" in court.

Mackenzie’s proposed actions to be taken include making changes to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is backed by MPs Harriet Harman and Mark Garnier. 

“We’re asking for an addition to the Domestic Abuse Bill in England and Wales so that the law is clear: that men can’t say women consented to this violence,” adds Mackenzie.

“And we need a change in attitudes too; that ‘sex’ isn’t something that causes the fatal injury and killing of women. 

“And media reporting must change too – as with most other of these cases, the headlines faithfully repeated the lurid, victim blaming stories this man’s defence team told about Grace, that she was responsible for her own death.”

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As the general election continues to focus on Brexit, Mackenzie is calling for MPs to commit to bringing back the Domestic Abuse Bill, and supporting these amendments, after the election.

You can find out more information on We Can’t Consent to This and how to help take action on their website.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…