On the 20th February 2020, Grace Millane’s murderer was sentenced to life in prison for killing Grace, a 22 year old woman from Essex who was travelling the world. Her case made headlines, as Grace’s killer was a man she met on Tinder, and who she had agreed to have consensual rough sex with. While it was clear the evidence against this man was extremely vast, he was still allowed to use the argument that Grace had been accidentally killed during consensual rough sex as a key part of his defence. As the case high profile case has come to an end, many people are calling for an end to ‘consensual violence’ being a legitimate defence, saying that the current law does not do enough to protect the victim and the victims’ families, and allows for further victim blaming and shame.
Tabloid papers across the word jumped on the fact that the case focused on Grace’s sex life, jumping on the fact that suddenly it was seemed acceptable to share intimate details of her life and sexual history. An example of this is the New York Post, who ran the headline “Killed backpacker Grace Millane was into choking, BDSM“, simply repeating what her killer claimed she consented to, publishing it for everyone to read about. There was no tact when it came to the tabloids stories about the case, no thought for Grace’s friends and family who had to listen to people defend her killer and place blame on a young woman for having a sex life. Furthermore, it creates a worrying trend where yet again a women’s sexuality can be used to blame her for violence carried out against her.
‘We can’t consent to this’ is an advocacy group that was set up as a response to the increasing number of women being killed or hurt by men who have claimed that it was simply ‘sex gone wrong’, and that the violence they were subjected to was consensual. This defence is on the rise in recent years and simply just another form of victim blaming – one that the victim is often not around to defend. The group has found that 60 women in the UK have been killed by men who defended their actions by saying it was simply a sex act that had gone wrong, and that this line of defence was successful in 7 of the 17 killings that had reached trial. The result being that the men were found not guilty or not did not receive a manslaughter conviction.
While UK Law does state that no one can consent to their own death, it is clear that this does not go far enough and does not do enough in protecting the victim, who is not around to defend themselves. Due to the fact that in the last 5 years, the ‘consensual violence’ defence has been successful in nearly half of the killings that went to trial, people, especially women, are calling for a change in UK law. At the moment, advocacy groups have created petitions arguing that while the law should be clear, at the moment “consensual activity ‘gone wrong’ gives too good a chance of a lesser charge, lighter sentence, or a death not being investigated as a crime at all.” The amendments purposed to the Domestic Abuse Bill call for there to be no defence for domestic abuse crimes by saying that it was consensual, something that has been a long time coming. However, due to the recent general election, passing the amendment into law has been slowed down, showing how there still needs to be a fight and a push to get it finalized and to stop men revictimizing the women that they killed. Without this amendment, violent men will continue to re-victimize the women that they chose to injure and even kill, more than likely be able to get away with it.
Written by Georgie Day
You can sign the petition to change UK Law here: https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-let-s-end-the-rough-sex-defence-604fb426-47ae-4d92-ad5a-75135fd020ff