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BojanaMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Jun-20 14:53:08

Guest post: “There have been 60 other UK women killed in violence claimed to be consensual”

Fiona Mackenzie started her ‘We Can’t Consent To This’ campaign on Mumsnet to end ‘rough sex’ defences - now she’s asking for your help in the next couple of weeks to ensure that government proposals to change the law will go far enough.

Fiona MacKenzie

Posted on: Tue 09-Jun-20 14:53:08

(87 comments )

Lead photo

“Only the government can - and must – bring these claims to a real end.”

I am so so glad that Mumsnet users gave their support to this campaign – Mumsnet is such a powerful campaigning force, and this campaign began right here. MNers can take action today to give us the best chance to change this.

I set up We Can’t Consent To This at the end of 2018, in response to the astonishingly short sentence given to the partner of Natalie Connolly. He was allowed by prosecutors to plead guilty to manslaughter, and given a three year eight month sentence by the judge, after Natalie died with terrible injuries at their home. Natalie’s partner claimed her brutal beating and appalling internal injuries were due to “rough sex” that she’d consented to; and this “consent” was accepted by the court. Natalie’s dad Alan since said, “Natalie is no longer here to tell us what he did to her or why he left her where he did. But there is absolutely no way she would have consented to what she was put through. One thing is for certain - Natalie didn't fantasise about being killed or leaving her daughter without a mum that night. Like so many other women, she didn’t consent to being brutally injured in the name of sex.”

And Natalie isn’t alone – we’ve found that there are 60 other UK women who’ve been killed in violence claimed to be consensual: this is the “rough sex defence”. You can see their stories on our website. And there are many more women injured in non-fatal assaults. Every woman who has been able to say so, says she did not consent to the violence. Only men have used a rough sex defence, often in appallingly serious violence. What’s more, its use is increasing. 13 women have been killed since Natalie Connolly, where a “rough sex” claim was used by the defendant.

We want as many individual MPs to sign up to these as possible – so the government knows how wide the support is for far reaching change that only they can make.


Using a rough sex claim in defence works too often: in 45% of homicides, the men get a lesser charge, a lighter sentence, or no charges at all. Often the woman’s sexual history is presented in court, to show she ‘consented’ to violence.

All this is at a time of a shocking violent assault of women in sex: research reported that 38% of UK women under 40 experienced unwanted slapping, choking, gagging, or spitting during consensual sex. This could mean 3.6 million UK women have been violently assaulted. Hundreds have written to us sharing their experiences, relatively few of those women have contacted police, but the criminal justice system must be ready to support them if they do.

Now, there is already a lawalready law that says you can’t consent to serious violence. But our research shows that this case law is not up to the task. It’s routinely disregarded. And as reported last week, the CPS confirmed they won’t prosecute violence where the defendant might say it was consensual: that they won’t try to prosecute using this existing law.

So, Parliament must step in. MPs across parties are gathering behind this: Harriet Harman has worked with Mark Garnier - the MP for Natalie Connolly’s family - and MP Laura Farris, to propose a set of amendments to the Domestic Abuse bill, which would go some way to end the success of these claims.

Only the government can - and must – bring these claims to a real end. We need change at every stage of the criminal justice system, for women in relationships with perpetrators, and for those who had only just met. After our campaign, the government promised their own review of rough sex defences, to prevent perpetrators evading justice – and we do know they take this issue seriously. You might have seen Boris Johnson say the defence is “inexcusable” when Laura Farris asked him about this at PMQs last week. But we don’t know if his government is bold enough to come back with full proposals of their own. Real change is far from certain.

For now, we have firm proposals from Harriet, Mark and Laura: to make the law clear - that you cannot consent to serious injury or death, to stop women’s sexual histories being used against them in homicide trials and to introduce a specific serious offence of non-fatal strangulation. We want as many individual MPs to sign up to these as possible – so the government knows how wide the support is for far reaching change that only they can make.

And for MNers in Scotland or Northern Ireland, we will campaign for similar change for you. We’ve already spoken with Holyrood MSPs to kick this off in Scotland. For now though, all UK MNers can help us with change to the Domestic Abuse bill.

These “rough sex” claims have been working for fifty years, we need law change and more to fix this. Our chance to change the law can begin today, when MPs will discuss the “rough sex” amendments in parliament.

So this week we want all UK Mumnsetters: to sign and share our petition, and email your MP. We know from MPs that constituent emails make a huge difference and I know how formidable a force MNers can be.

By Fiona MacKenzie

Twitter: @Wecantconsentto

OvaHere Tue 09-Jun-20 18:26:19

Thank you. I've signed the petition and will email my MP.

WeirdAndPissedOff Tue 09-Jun-20 18:44:55

Thank you - I've signed and e-mailed my local MP.

Ereshkigalangcleg Tue 09-Jun-20 18:55:26

Thank you! Signed and shared.

Amberfest Tue 09-Jun-20 19:00:20

Signed. Long overdue. I can't think of another area of the criminal law where the CPS will not prosecute for what is clearly a criminal offence because hey, it's just women and what the men claim is more important.

You cannot consent to your own violent abuse or death, whether or not in a sexual context. It should not need clarifying but apparently it does. So let's put it beyond all doubt.

334bu Tue 09-Jun-20 19:13:23

Does anybody know whether this applies to Scotland as well ?

CaraDune Tue 09-Jun-20 19:22:56

Thank you for this. I will be emailing my MP (I've already signed the petition).

stinkingbishop Tue 09-Jun-20 19:58:14

333bu this change in law (if it passes) will only apply to England and Wales.

stinkingbishop Tue 09-Jun-20 19:58:48

Completely agree Fiona. Thank you for your amazing tenacity and commitment on this. Have signed, and written to MP.

ScrimpshawTheSecond Tue 09-Jun-20 20:22:12

Thank you. I've signed petition, will email my MP tomorrow. I have a list ...

EustaciaPieface Tue 09-Jun-20 20:22:44

Thank you. Completely shocking and unacceptable.

namechange0202 Tue 09-Jun-20 21:07:02

An old friend’s mother is on that list . Thank you for remembering her story flowers . Her (now adult) children and her parents are the most wonderful, gentle, kind souls . I fully, 100% back this campaign .

BoreOfWhabylon Tue 09-Jun-20 22:09:39

Thank you Fiona. Signed and email sent.

truthisarevolutionaryact Tue 09-Jun-20 22:27:42

Thank you. Such an important campaign. Signed and shared.

DishingOutDone Tue 09-Jun-20 22:44:55

Does anyone know if this applies to men as well? Have any men been killed with the defence of "consent to violence"?

CountFosco Wed 10-Jun-20 07:23:36

DishingOutDone

Does anyone know if this applies to men as well? Have any men been killed with the defence of "consent to violence"?

The OP says Only men have used a rough sex defence, often in appallingly serious violence..

Chrestomanci3 Wed 10-Jun-20 07:40:30

Thank you. Signed.

MoltenLasagne Wed 10-Jun-20 07:59:26

DishingOutDone

Does anyone know if this applies to men as well? Have any men been killed with the defence of "consent to violence"?

The original ruling that you cannot consent to GBH was brought in a case of gay men. It appears that this is disregarded when it is women who are the victims.

littlbrowndog Wed 10-Jun-20 10:02:28

Signed thanks for this

AnneElliott Wed 10-Jun-20 11:04:21

Thanks. Signed and shared. This is appalling. I was going to make the point raised by a pp that the case of Brown (where the principle of not consenting you assault comes from) involved men. How convenient that it doesn't apply to women!

Binglebong Wed 10-Jun-20 12:53:18

Great that you've started this but why not use the government e-petitions so you can (with enough signatures) guarantee a discussion in parliament?

Ereshkigalangcleg Wed 10-Jun-20 13:27:06

The original ruling that you cannot consent to GBH was brought in a case of gay men. It appears that this is disregarded when it is women who are the victims.

It does. I think it's appalling. Could that be grounds for a legal challenge?

DishingOutDone Wed 10-Jun-20 13:52:10

The original ruling that you cannot consent to GBH was brought in a case of gay men. It appears that this is disregarded when it is women who are the victims.

No words sad

FionaMackenzie Wed 10-Jun-20 16:29:44

<knocks lightly>

Fiona here, under my official Guest Post username. hello!

I am so so moved by the support from MNers. And honestly your writing to your MPs, and signing and sharing the petition will give this a huge boost.

And flowers for your friend's mum namechange0202 - her story and those of the other women spur us on and I hope we will make sure this doesn't happen to other women, other families.

There are some excellent questions on the thread which I'll respond to with this fancy quote functionality...

FionaMackenzie Wed 10-Jun-20 16:34:34

334bu

Does anybody know whether this applies to Scotland as well ?

Scottish MPs can sign up to show support for the amendments - so please do write to your Scottish MP. These current proposals will not apply in Scotland but we are already pushing for similar change there (and the same goes for Northern Ireland).

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