Your Campaign To End The ‘Rough Sex’ Defence Has Become Law

More than 68,000 of you joined our campaign with We Can't Consent To This to protect women's lives and legacies.

Grace Millane

by Rhiannon Evans |

Just 16 Months ago, Grazia readers joined us and We Can’t Consent To This (WCCTT) to rid the courts of the vile ‘rough sex’ defence. Now, those efforts, petition signatures and letters to MPs mean the law has changed and an attacker can no longer claim a victim consented to violence or their own murder.

After a final Commons debate earlier this month, the Domestic Abuse Bill and an amendment against the defence today received Royal Assent and became law.

Campaign group WCCTT found at least 60 women had been killed by men who used the so-called ‘50 Shades defence’, saying consensual violence during sex had caused their death – worryingly the use of the defence was on the rise, with a tenfold increase in 20 years and, in 45% of cases, led to a lesser charge or not-guilty verdict. Following the horrific deaths of Natalie Connolly here in the UK, and Grace Millane in New Zealand, there was public outrage at the fact men involved were effectively arguing ‘she asked for it’ in modern-day courts, and that victims’ families were having to sit through extensive evidence about their loved ones’ supposed sexual preferences.

MPs Harriet Harman and Mark Garnier, Labour and Conservative respectively, introduced an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill to get the defence banned. Grazia gained assurance from Boris Johnson during the December 2019 election campaign that it would be a priority for his Government, and started a petition with WCCTT that more than 68,000 of you signed. After a Government review and a new amendment, that position will now become law.

WCCTT founder Fiona Mackenzie said: ‘This bill will mean so much. Not just on the “rough sex” defence ban, so brilliantly pushed for by Grazia and your readers, but also on a whole range of measures to tackle domestic abuse, including a new offence of non-fatal strangulation, and for threatening to share intimate images. I’ve heard from too many women that violence and abuse in sex and relationships is “normal”, something we’re supposed to accept, and not worth reporting.

'But law change is only ever the beginning: we need to see the law working, and there is still so much more that Government can do to tackle violence against women. And we mustn’t forget that Northern Ireland are looking at their own “rough sex” defence law change – with the same needed in Scotland too.’

Long-term supporter of the bill, Tory MP Laura Farris, added: ‘This is a landmark moment for women’s rights. The bill tackles the spectrum of domestic abuse from physical violence to coercive control. But it also creates vital new protections against sexual violence, which apply irrespective of your relationship status.’

Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins, who visited Natalie Connolly’s family, said the bill was a ‘truly ground- breaking piece of legislation’ for the estimated 2.3 million adult victims of domestic abuse a year. ‘One of the most chilling developments in recent times has been the increased use of the so-called “rough sex” defence. Natalie’s family told me it made them feel as if she was the one on trial – the pain that must have caused is unimaginable.’

Grazia editor Hattie Brett added: ‘Thank you for lending your support to our Rough Sex petition and proving that violence against women – no matter what form it takes – must be tackled. Your voices have resulted in a change in the law that will protect women going forward.’

READ MORE: The Domestic Abuse Bill Is 'The Beginning Of Real Change For Women'

READ MORE: Let's End The 'Rough Sex' Defence

READ MORE: How ‘Rough Sex Gone Wrong’ Became A Horrifyingly Common Line Of Defence In The UK

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