Senior lawyers and women’s organisations have condemned the increasing use of “rough sex gone wrong” as a courtroom defence to the murder of women and called for a change to the law in the UK.
In the wake of the conviction of British backpacker Grace Millane’s killer in New Zealand, researchers have revealed a tenfold rise over the past two decades in the number of times similar claims have been made in UK courts.
According to the campaign group We Can’t Consent to This, in the past decade 30 women and girls have been killed in what was claimed to have been consensual violent sexual activity in the UK.
Of those, 17 resulted in men being convicted of murder, nine led to manslaughter convictions and two ended in acquittals. In one further case, there was a murder conviction but only after the victim’s husband confessed; police had initially treated the death as non-suspicious. The case of one woman’s death has yet to go to court.
In 1996 there were two cases in which deaths and injuries to women were blamed on “rough sex”; by 2016, that had climbed to 20 cases a year.
During the Auckland trial of Millane’s murderer, the accused’s lawyer, Ian Brookie, told the jury that the 21-year-old backpacker had died during “a perfectly ordinary, casual sexual encounter between a young couple … as a result of what they consensually engaged in.”
The jury, however, did not believe him and unanimously found the killer guilty of murder. “You can’t consent to your own murder,” the crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said.
Fiona Mackenzie, an actuary, set up We Can’t Consent to This after the outcry over the killing of Natalie Connolly, 26, by her partner John Broadhurst, 40. Despite having 40 separate injuries, including serious internal trauma, a fractured eye socket and bleach on her face, Broadhurst received a sentence of three years and eight months for manslaughter.
Mackenzie supports changes to the domestic abuse bill, put forward by the MPs Harriet Harman and Mark Garnier, to incorporate the principle of R v Brown into statute.
She told the Guardian: “As well as changing the law, we need to have an attitude change across the justice system. People need to stop buying into these ‘rough sex’ excuses.
“Everywhere you look in the world, there’s the same failure in countries’ criminal justice systems. It’s terrifying.”
Consent, which has increasingly entered popular consciousness as a key concept in rape cases, is no defence to injury, let alone death. The principle was established in a 1993 test case, R v Brown, in the House of Lords in which a group of men were convicted of assault and wounding even though their sadomasochistic victims had willingly participated in the violence.
The defence of “rough sex gone wrong” has no official status in law but can, campaigners claim, influence prosecutors to reduce a charge from murder to manslaughter or a judge to lower the eventual sentence.
Sarah Green, the director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said: “Women monitoring femicides in the UK believe the so-called ‘rough sex defence’ is growing. It is deeply alarming and at worst reflects the fact that defence is, actually, a business where some are willing to ‘test’ approaches that might win in court. It sets women up to be harmed in life and grossly insulted after their deaths.
“We’re also appalled at the willingness of large parts of the media to uncritically reproduce this deeply misogynistic line. Editors need to get a hold of this now and stop the thoughtless and sensational communication of cases where women have died.”
Prof Susan Edwards, a barrister who teaches law at the University of Buckingham, believes strangulation should be made a stand-alone offence.
“Strangulation is the cause of death in around a third of all spousal homicides,” she said. “Now there’s a burgeoning use of [rough sex excuses] because there’s greater acceptance of BDSM [bondage and sadomasochism] in relationships.”
Thirty years ago, she said, the more common excuse from a violent partner would have been that they were provoked, that it was unintentional or they lost control.
Campaigners partly blame the cultural normalisation of rough sex on the growth of violent online pornography and books such as Fifty Shades of Grey with its themes of sadomasochism.
What is not so clear is whether there has been a significant rise in the number of sexual strangulation deaths or whether the excuse of “rough sex” is simply being deployed more often than in the past.
Karen Ingala-Smith, the chief executive of the domestic violence charity Nia, said: “Women don’t die from rough sex. Women die because men are violent to them.”
She said violent and degrading online pornography was “socialising young men into different expectations of what they are supposed to do in bed. Women are pressured, whether they’re conscious of it or not, to accept violence during sex and do things that weren’t commonplace 10 or 20 years ago.”
A man who strangled a British backpacker and hid her body inside a suitcase has been found guilty of murder.
Grace Millane was found buried in bushland outside Auckland, New Zealand.
A jury at the city’s high court rejected claims by the 27-year-old man, who cannot be named, that she died accidentally during “rough sex”.
Ms Millane’s parents David and Gillian wept in the public gallery as jurors convicted their daughter’s killer.
He showed no emotion as the verdict – reached after about five hours of deliberations – was read out.
Justice Simon Moore said the defendant would be sentenced on 21 February next year.
Jurors heard the defendant and Ms Millane had met via the Tinder dating app on 1 December last year, the night before Ms Millane’s 22nd birthday.
They spent several hours drinking cocktails in bars around Auckland before going to the defendant’s hotel.
Ms Millane, from Wickford, Essex, was found in the mountainous Waitākere Ranges a week later.
Prosecutors said post-mortem examinations found bruises “consistent with restraint” on her body, and that she had been strangled.
On the night of her death, the court heard, the defendant “wasn’t distressed or concerned by her death”, and set about making plans to dispose of her remains.
He “sexualised” the killing by searching for pornography, stopping at one point to take lewd photos of her corpse, prosecutors said.
The following day, he went on a Tinder date with another woman while the body of Ms Millane remained in the hotel room.
He had bought a second suitcase in a bid to cover his tracks, as well as cleaning products and a shovel, jurors heard.
The defendant did not give evidence in his defence.
Following the verdict, the step-brother of the murderer spoke to television station TVNZ reporter Paul Hobbs.
The man, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, said he initially thought Miss Millane’s death could have been an accident but when he saw the timeline of events, his view changed.
His step-brother, he said, was “a pathological liar that lies over pointless things and continues to lie until the point where he’s got no out – absolutely no out – and then he just breaks down and cries and runs away.
“It’s just absolutely terrible that a life had to be lost because of it.”
He said he did not think his step-brother intended to kill Grace, but said: “In that moment he just kept going… and he took Grace’s life.”
In an interview with police, shown during the trial, the defendant was seen to break down in tears.
“His tears, to me, they’re more tears for himself.”
Apologising to the Millane family, he added: “I’m just so, so incredibly sorry for their loss.
“To know it’s one of our family members – even though it’s not our actions – it’s very difficult, and I can’t imagine the pain and hurt and what [the Millane family] had to go through for a court hearing… to me that’s all because he doesn’t have any shred of a decent human being inside him, and couldn’t just confess to the fact he murdered her.”
I really thought he was going to be found not guilty of murder, becuase of the evidence that Millane was into BDSM and ‘breath play’, so this is amazing.
Last week, the trial of the man suspected of killing British backpacker Grace Millane finally began.
The 22-year-old from Wickford, Essex, had been on a round-the-world trip when she was strangled to death in the Auckland apartment of the 27-year-old man she had met for a Tinder date last December, the eve of her 22nd birthday.
Jurors have heard that after she died, the accused took “intimate” photos of her body, watched pornography, and went on to have on another Tinder date the following evening, while Grace’s body was kept in a suitcase in his room.
Prosecutors allege Grace was strangled to death in the man’s apartment – but the case for the defence? They claim that Grace died by accident during consensual sex, saying “acts designed to enhance sexual pleasure went wrong”.
This defence will mean Grace’s family will have to endure a month-long trial during where her sexual behaviours and preferences are openly discussed. Her parents, David and Gill, are sitting just feet from the accused.
Grace’s story is a shocking one – but sadly not unique.
‘Consensual rough sex’ defences to the killing or injuring of women and girls are successfully being used to get lighter convictions and sentences.
In fact, the consensual violence defence has been used in the case of 59 deaths of women since records began. Only in the case of 36 pf those deaths was the defence not supported by the jury, and the accused were convicted of murder.
Of the remaining cases, 16 resulted in manslaughter convictions, two were found not guilty, and in three no charges were brought. Two cases – Grace’s included – are ongoing.
Currently, so-called ‘sex gone wrong’ defences are successful roughly 45 per cent of the time.
Around 60 per cent of women who are killed in alleged ‘rough sex’ die from being strangled, and a third of the dead women just met their killers on the same day as their murder.
What’s worse, the use of the ‘consensual rough sex’ defences to the killing or injuring of women and girls is on the rise in courts.
According to the most recent available statistics, there were 20 uses of the defence in 2017, compared to just two in 1997 – a tenfold increase in 20 years.
These statistics have been collated by We Can’t Consent To This (WCCTT), an initiative looking to change laws on domestic violence, with the consensual violence plea at the heart.
WCCTT are campaigning to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill in England and Wales to end the use of these defences in court.
The bill has sadly been temporarily halted due to the dissolution of parliament ahead of the general election in December. But two MPs – Harriet Harman and Mark Garnier – have announced they will take action over the use of ‘rough sex’ defences.
Its message is a simple one: women can’t consent to their own death. And it’s one that is brutally encapsulated in the dozens of true stories it has on its website – stories like Grace’s.
There’s Natalie Connolly, a 26-year-old mum who died at the bottom of her stairs in 2016 after suffering 40 separate injuries, including serious internal trauma, vaginal arterial bleeding, a fractured eye socket and facial wounds.
Her partner of only a few months, millionaire property developer John Broadhurst, claimed it was consensual, alcohol and drug-fuelled rough sex. He was convicted of manslaughter and got only three years and eight months.
Then there is Laura Huteson, a 21-year-old who was killed by a man she had met just that day. Her killer Jason Gaskell had held a knife to her neck while having sex and cut through her carotid artery.
Gaskell, the only surviving witness, claimed he didn’t intend to use the knife to kill Laura. He was ultimately charged with murder but admitted manslaughter and got just six years in prison. Courts heard how Gaskell had strangled a woman 11 days earlier.
Chloe Miazek was a 20-year-old student who had been out drinking in Aberdeen when she had been thrown out of a nightclub for being too drunk. She was approached by Mark Bruce, 32, while waiting at a bus stop and within two hours he had strangled her.
Bruce claimed it had been an accident and denied murder. He pleaded culpable homicide – the Scottish equivalent of manslaughter – and got just six years inside.
The examples make for tough reading – yet unbelievably, the subject of ‘consensual rough sex’ remains fraught with grey areas, legally speaking at least.
But for WCCTT founder Fiona Mackenzie, it reads starkly black and white.
“The law should be clear it shouldn’t matter if she consented to rough sex, that shouldn’t matter at all, it shouldn’t be part of a case,” she tells Tyla.
Fiona was inspired to create WCCTT when she heard MP Harriet Harman speak about Natalie Connelly’s death on BBC Woman’s Hour.
She – like a lot of other women she knew – were horrified by John Broadhurst’s short sentence and concerned by the frequency in which these kinds of cases were appearing in the news.
On Christmas Eve last year, Fiona decided to collate all of the cases she could immediately and launched the website.
Fiona explains how in some cases, even police officers investigating these cases, coroners, and crime scene officers are then “writing them off” because they look like sex accidents gone wrong.
“This defence allows people to switch their brains off,” she explains. “They think ‘other people must get up to this, who knows what goes on in the bedroom, maybe she asked for it.’
“That’s why it’s so successful. It’s the ultimate in victim blaming – blaming women for their own death.”
In all cases, jury’s have to go off the accused’s word alone. The victim can’t offer their side of the story, as is the sad situation with Grace.
“We need a change in attitude in the criminal justice system so people know that women do not consent to this violence,” Fiona adds.
Aside from changing the law, Fiona hopes WCCTT can help to raise awareness about the dangers of violent sex more generally.
“There’s a huge issue with young women being choked, punched, slapped or just horrendously assaulted as part of consensual sex by men that they are dating,” Fiona explains.
“We know this, we know its really dangerous to strangle someone, but for some reason young men are able to override this knowledge and are choking their partners.”
Recent figures from the ONS showed an estimated 4.3 million women have experienced some form of domestic abuse, and one in five have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 in England and Wales.
Police receive a domestic abuse call every 30 seconds, while two women are killed by an ex or current partner every single week in England and Wales alone.
It’s clear the increase in cases of violent sex and the use of the consensual rough sex defence goes hand-in-hand with the normalisation of violence against women, and it needs to be stopped.
Perhaps less easy to discount is the pornography consumed by Boy A, including material depicting violence against women. Gardaí found thousands of images on his various devices, as well as internet searches for “child porn” and “horse porn”. But the psychological assessments stated that he had a normal view of sexual matters, a fact scarcely believable given the nature of the attack. Ana was naked when found, her ripped clothes scattered around the room.
In the absence of external factors, it’s tempting to label one or both boys as budding psychopaths, devoid of empathy and preprogrammed to commit horrific crimes. But again the reports said neither showed signs of personality disorders or traits indicating psychopathy. Similarly, there was no evidence of mental illness in either teen.
This is what we mean when we say misogyny is ‘normal’ and ‘normalised’; hatred of women is so entrenched in ‘everyday’ culture and society that a ‘normal’ teenaged boy who looks at violent porn online can go on to commit a brutal sexual murder for ‘no reason’.
QotD: “Husband killed his wife ‘when 48-hour bondage sex session’ during their ‘honeymoon period’ in Germany left her with a perforated bowel”
A German man is in court facing manslaughter charges for killing his new wife in a 48-hour BDSM sex session just days after they walked down the aisle together.
Ralph Jankus, 52, and his wife Christel, 49, took part in a 48-hour sex session for their nuptials, he claims.
New bride Christel suffered severe internal injuries allegedly after a sharp object was inserted into her.
When emergency services were called four days later, they were unable to save Christel.
Self-confessed sadomasochist Jankus faces manslaughter charges at the court in Krefeld, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, in western Germany.
He is being prosecuted for failing to call for help, allegedly leaving her injured for four days. He claims he was not aware his wife was seriously ill.
The public prosecutor believes that Jankus must have been aware of how unwell his wife was and that her life was in danger.
When questioned, he told police the sex had been consensual and that he had been taking part in sadomasochism sessions for the past thirty years.
Jankus has reportedly admitted that his wife had previously complained about discomfort and had been to see an internal medicine specialist who had carried out a colonoscopy, but nothing had been found to be wrong with her.
Forensic medicine specialists came to the conclusion that the woman must have had some sort of barbed hook inserted into her and when it was removed this caused a perforated bowel.
The victim’s 30-year-old son, who has not been named, claimed his mother had been abused as a child and was mentally unstable.
He added that his mother was dominated by her husband and had started wearing clothes that covered her up well.
She had also allegedly reported abuse at the hands of her husband before they got married, in 2017, but later withdrew these allegations and had spent some time in a psychiatric clinic.
Her son claims that she fled to a women’s shelter in 2018, before turning up happier and marrying her partner in July of the same year.
He said: ‘She had injuries over her whole body and in her genital region.’
The son said: ‘I made accusations to her that she was putting up with too much and that it should never have gone this far.’
He added he had seen bruises which his mother had shown him and she allegedly told her son that she never wanted to see her partner again and never wanted to be hurt by him.
He claims that Jankus ‘abused, mistreated and humiliated’ his mother, but added: ‘I do think she loved him though.’
Her son’s partner, who is also a witness and who has not been named, said: ‘We had no idea about the violence at first. But over time it became more apparent, she was not allowed to leave the apartment. She was forced into taking drugs. She was beaten for going to the hairdressers without permission.’
A pint of semi-skimmed, 20 Bensons, a scratchcard and, er, a porn pass . . . The odds on this becoming a regular corner-shop scenario crashed this week as Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, announced that age verification checks for accessing online pornography would be delayed yet again, this time because the government forgot to inform the European Commission. No wonder it’s been called Sexit.
Age verification began as a thoughtful response by the coalition government to alarming NSPCC research that 65 per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds and almost a third of 12-year-olds access porn. That porn sites should be age-verified, as gambling domains already are, has a 67 per cent approval rating. The problem is that it’s technologically impossible to enforce.
From July 15, clicking on a porn site was supposed to generate a page where a user must provide proof via a credit card, passport or driving licence that they are over 18. Unfortunately Britain stands nobly alone in this endeavour against a global porn industry. And any fool can easily install a VPN (virtual private network): a bit of software which conceals your geographical location. British kids use them already to dodge rights issues, particularly to access US Netflix with its superior range of films.
A VPN would allow a porn user to swerve the UK age-blocker. And which punter wouldn’t do that rather than give personal details to the state-approved verification firm AgeID (which, unbelievably, has the same owner as Pornhub)? No amount of blah about safe encrypted data will reassure anyone that their name and mugshot won’t one day pop up alongside their taste for “watersports” and MILFs.
The alternative would be to go into a shop and, after showing an age ID, buy a £4.99 porn pass. While oldsters might find this no more embarrassing than the time they bumped into their mate’s mum while buying a copy of Razzle, young people have grown up under the total anonymity of the web. Besides, they would simply access porn on platforms such as WhatsApp, Reddit or Snapchat. And a VPN can make the internet an even more dangerous landscape, opening up blocked extremist, paedophile and drug sites on the dark web.
Yet whether age-verification is feasible should not distract from the bigger, more pressing question: does allowing the porn industry to pipe its product unrestricted into every home have toxic consequences? Ireland is reeling from the murder of Ana Kriegel, 14, found naked with extensive injuries and a ligature around her neck, killed by two 13-year-old boys. One of the boys was found to have phones containing thousands of pornographic images, many involving children and animals. The Irish prime minister has said he will be viewing Britain’s age-verification plans closely.
This, of course, is the most extreme scenario. Experts speculated in 1993 whether James Bulger’s killers were inspired by “video nasties” or were just disturbed children who’d have killed in any era. But there is no question that having immediate access to images once obtained only by writing to obscure PO box addresses has changed society. Police now investigate 1,000 cases of offenders viewing child abuse images each month: our jails could not accommodate them all so most are dismissed with a caution on a first offence. Many such men say that viewing “barely legal” porn involving teenagers on legal sites drew them to younger children.
There has also been a spate of deaths of women at the hands of partners who claimed they were engaged in consensual “sex games”. These include Anna Reed, 22, from Harrogate who was suffocated in a Swiss hotel room; Charlotte Teeling, 33, from Birmingham, who was strangled, as was Hannah Dorans, 21, from Edinburgh. Natalie Connolly, 26, was penetrated with a bottle of carpet cleaner and left for dead at the bottom of the stairs. All the men concerned argued that “rough sex” or “Fifty Shades of Grey games” had gone wrong, that these women had, in effect, consented to their own deaths.
These are scenes choreographed by violent pornography, which is not some rare category but just a click away. Researchers studying aggressive porn that involves slaps, hair-pulling and choking found that in 95 per cent of cases the actresses responded with expressions of pleasure, suggesting to the viewer that violence is desired.
Is it any coincidence that the first generation of children exposed to hardcore pornography before their first kiss have epidemic levels of mental illness? The extreme aesthetics of porn fuel body-hatred in young women, while psychologists are concerned that a growing cohort of young men are so desensitised by porn that they suffer erectile dysfunction and emotional disconnection from real women. Moreover, when sex is learnt through porn — a misogynist industry focused solely on male desire — girls prioritise their performance above their own pleasure.
This is now normalised in the mainstream: Teen Vogue ran a feature on anal sex, which most women find uncomfortable, even painful, but is demanded by some men because it’s a major porn trope. Teen Vogue’s anatomical diagram did not even include the clitoris.
Yet young women are not allowed to balk at porn. In the US high school comedy Booksmart, two girls watch porn on their phone in horror. One tries to tell herself she must enjoy it because “I’m a sex-positive feminist”. Not to love porn marks a girl out as uncool, conservative and “unwoke”. Age-verifying technology is, alas, a distraction from the real conversation we need with young people about porn. That it is not feminist nor is it positive sex.
A mock-Tudor semi on a residential street in west London is the nerve centre of the organisation that made history 27 years ago in a landmark domestic violence ruling.
Southall Black Sisters (SBS), a not-for-profit group, is celebrating the 40th anniversary since it began challenging gender-based violence and providing practical support to black and Asian women escaping domestic violence and forced marriages.
Most famously it supported Kiranjit Ahluwalia, whose successful 1992 appeal against her conviction for murdering her violent husband changed the law on provocation and the understanding of battered woman syndrome.
To less fanfare, a 20-year campaign resulted in changes to immigration rules that had trapped women from overseas in abusive marriages. The 2012 concession let women who had come to the UK on a partner visa claim benefits while applying for settled status after fleeing domestic violence.
Formed by Afro-Caribbean and Asian women, SBS arose when in 1979 Southall communities united to oppose a National Front march through the town. Pragna Patel, who has led the group since 1982, says: “The growing anti-racist consciousness and second wave of feminism came together with the recognition that you couldn’t prioritise the fight against racism at the expense of women’s struggles.”
She explains that the word “black” in the name was a political and unifying term, bringing together disparate minority communities with common histories of imperialism and colonialism. With funding from the Greater London Council, she started out with two others. SBS now has 14 staff and, through a trust, owns its premises. Her vision, inspired by the burgeoning law centre movement, was to bring the law to people to deal with their realities.
“I was 22 and very naive in lots of ways, but fearless in other ways,” Patel says. “If you asked me to set up something like that today, I’d say you were kidding.”
In 1980 one of its first campaigns followed the death of a local woman, known only as “Mrs Dhillon”, burnt by her husband because she had only given birth to daughters. “The same community that had shown such indignation about racial violence was silent on gender-based violence,” Patel says.
The same year, SBS exposed the racist and sexist Home Office practice of testing the virginity of Asian women coming to the UK to join their husbands. Officials at the time argued that the test was necessary to determine the authenticity of their marriages.
The organisation shot to national prominence when it took up the case of Ahluwalia. It was pivotal for two reasons, Patel says. “It laid bare the built-in discrimination in the criminal justice system, based on white male assumptions of behaviour and conduct. And it forced minority communities to acknowledge that gender-based violence existed and the way they treated women was partly responsible.”
Ahluwalia tells The Times: “When I got my life sentence and my trial solicitor said there were no grounds of appeal that was a big blow. I had no lawyer, no family. I lost everything.”
After receiving her letter for help, Patel visited Ahluwalia hundreds of times and painstakingly put together her history to support her appeal. “In my trial statement there were 40 pages,” Ahluwalia says. “When SBS took over my case, there were nearly 500. I don’t have the words for SBS and Pragna. Without them I wouldn’t be here.”
SBS also worked to introduce the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, giving courts power to stop someone from forcing another into marriage. Until then, Patel says, authorities were reluctant to intervene in what they saw as “cultural matters” for fear of being branded racist.
Patel insists it is racist not to act: “Tolerance, diversity and multiculturalism are important in the fight against racism. But you can’t allow multiculturalism to be used to cloak abuse of more vulnerable people in the community.”
As SBS celebrates its anniversary, there is much still to do. The group has just been given a grant from the tampon tax fund to support migrant women escaping domestic violence. They are fighting for changes to the Domestic Abuse Bill, published this year, which leaves migrant women unprotected and trapped in cycles of abuse, exploitation and destitution.
These women do not need charity, Patel says — they need rights.
There is a common criticism of journalism and political argument on this topic, a criticism that is often voiced by trans-rights advocates and others. It can be summarised as: “By discussing trans rights and cases of abuse in the same context, you are demonising trans people and implying that trans people are sexual predators and perverts. That is harmful because it adds to the stigma some trans people experience. Please stop.”
And if that was indeed the point being made, I think that would be a fair response.
But it’s not. The concern that has been raised about self-ID and other trans-rights policies is about safeguarding, about protecting vulnerable people from manipulative and abusive men. The expressed gender identity of those men doesn’t really come into it, except where those people might use the concept of gender to exploit those rules and facilitate their abuse.
Put more bluntly, no one is scared about trans people here. They’re scared about rapists. Some rapists say they’re trans. Get over it.
Because acknowledging that some sex offenders will use gender laws to facilitate their abuse is no more “anti-trans” than accepting that some sex offenders used their positions as Roman Catholic priests to carry out abuse is anti-Catholic. Bad people do bad things. Anyone making, implementing or advising on policy should accept that basic fact and work to mitigate it, not cry bigot when someone asks whether that policy is open to misuse.
One of the feminist groups that raised such concerns is Fair Play for Women. These are the people who really sounded the alarm about transgender offenders in the women’s prison estate, with a report last autumn that was later borne out in official figures released by the MoJ. As the group’s warnings over prisons are being so horribly vindicated by the Karen White case, I hope that people in authority will pay more attention to FPFW’s most recent work, which is about domestic violence refuges and shelters.
That report makes two points that deserve much more attention in political conversation about gender, law and domestic violence. The first is that a lot of women who run and use shelters feel they can’t talk freely about this issue, for the familiar reasons that they will be accused of transphobia, lose their jobs and lose funding for the services they provide for vulnerable women.
The second, and more fundamental, point is that the people who run shelters and refuges believe that laws proposed to make life easier for transgender people will also have the effect of making it easier for abusive men to abuse women.
The report, based on the accounts of domestic violence workers and volunteers, makes abundantly clear the fact that the sort of men who wish to hurt, rape and kill women will take every opportunity to do. One shelter manager with 37 years’ experience told FPFW researchers:
With self-ID policies we will effectively be giving the keys to women’s refuges to abusive men. If that happens, beyond a shadow of a doubt, women will die. Never ever underestimate the potential for abusive men to track down, find and torture their victim.
Perhaps you think that’s hyperbolic or excessively dramatic. If so, consider again the case of Karen White.
In 2016, the Prison Service put in place a policy that was intended to make life easier for transwomen in custody. That policy meant Karen White, a rapist and child abuser, was able to gain access to vulnerable women and sexually assault them. In the words of the prosecution in White’s latest trial, White is a “predator” who sought to “use a transgender persona to put herself in contact with vulnerable persons she can then abuse.”
Those words were spoken in a trial that ended in Karen White being given a life sentence and the judge telling White: “You are a predator and highly manipulative and in my view you are a danger.”
The Karen White case came about even after MPs had been given clear warnings by several experts that dangerous and manipulative predators like Karen White would try to exploit gender laws and rules in order to abuse women. They failed to act on those warnings and properly scrutinise the rules involved in the Karen White case.
Now, that Fair Play for Women report about domestic violence shelters gives MPs and other people in power another chance to do better. They have been given a clear warning by the professionals who spend their every waking moment dealing with the harm done by abusive men and trying to protect women from abusive men, that such men will try to exploit laws on gender change to find, abuse and kill women.
What will it take to persuade them to listen to that warning this time?
Who was Francisca Marquinez? What we can garner from the evidence is that she was choked to death in October 2015. Beyond that, we know little about who she was.
The overwhelming theme of the messages I found through the online condolences book her family set up for her tell the story of a kind and caring woman. Marquinez was “a fun, outgoing and genuine person with positive energy.” She had an “infectious laugh and a beautiful spirit.” She worked for many years in the Human Resources sector and liked to dance merengue and salsa. Her niece Carla says her aunt was “a woman whose happiness shone through.” Yet no news outlet discussed the 60-year-old woman’s personality or life. The media was far more interested in talking about her murderer’s penis.
Marquinez was murdered by her boyfriend, 65-year-old Richard Henry Patterson, in Margate, Florida. Patterson was charged with second-degree murder in October 2015, but was found not guilty in May 2017. The ruling happened almost a year ago and yet there is still far more information available online about Patterson’s genitals than about the woman whose life he took.
The attorney for the accused argued that Marquinez had “accidentally” choked on Patterson’s penis during consensual oral sex. But in all likelihood, this murder was far more gruesome and far less titillating than it was portrayed. The case was referred to in the media as the “penis defense murder trial.” Instead of referring to an “asphyxiation defense” or the “suffocation defense,” the Sun Sentinel called it an “oral-sex defense,” thereby providing legitimacy to an implausible claim.
For Patterson’s defense to be plausible, Marquinez would have had to not realize her death was imminent. Associate Broward Medical Examiner Iouri Boiko, who conducted Marquinez’ autopsy, said that although it was not possible to confirm a cause of death due to the decomposition of the body when it was found by police, it is impossible for it to have been an accidental oral sex scenario. Marquinez would have had to remain absolutely passive while her airways were blocked for more than 30 seconds, until she lost consciousness. In reality, Boiko says, she would have kicked, bitten, or done something else to prevent the blocking of her airway, he explained in court. “It’s the normal reaction.” Even after those fatal 30 seconds, Patterson would have had to keep his erect penis blocking the throat of the unconscious woman for two to three minutes. Only then, after this ongoing blockage of her airway, would Marquinez have finally died.
Patterson waited several days before informing anyone of Marquinez’ death, allowing time for her body to decompose beyond the point where an autopsy could reveal causes of death. Eventually, he called his ex-girlfriend (not the police or an ambulance). During the trial, the jury was presented with a recording in which his ex-girlfriend asked, “Were you arguing?” Patterson replied, “Holly, it doesn’t matter what happened. I’m not telling you what happened because you don’t need to know. Period.” He texted his daughter, saying, “Your dad did something really bad last night,” and that he was “so, so sorry.” He also told his ex and daughter, “I choked Francisca (not, “she choked”). Because Patterson didn’t contact the police, it was his ex-girlfriend who decided to contact a lawyer to defend him in the inevitable trial that would ensue. All reasonable evidence incriminating Patterson was considered less relevant than the star of the trial: his penis.
Due to Patterson’s claim that the size of his penis was a factor in Marquinez’ death, he asked the court to view it as evidence. Assistant state attorney Peter Sapak considered this, asking: “Do we do it in the back? Do we do it in open court? How is the defendant going to be erect when the jury views it? Because a flaccid penis, whether it be a picture or the jury actually seeing it, is completely irrelevant. It needs to be erect.” Patterson’s defense said they were willing to provide a picture of his clients penis next to a tape measure and a frontal picture of Patterson’s naked body.
Patterson’s penis — not the fact that he killed a woman — was the big news story. The media framed the case in a way that would ensure the public read it as funny and titillating. “Massive penis man who claimed his girlfriend choked to death during oral sex is dramatically found NOT GUILTY of murder,” read one headline. Another read, “Murder suspect tries big-penis defense — and it might work.” This narrative — that a woman had consented to her own death — was believed by the media because it confirmed what we’re constantly told: that women enjoy and seek out the violence perpetrated against us, that sex and violence are interchangeable, and that no femicide is so cruel or harrowing that it is above being considered “consensual sex.”
To imagine that Francisca Marquinez likely fought for her life, as a man — someone she once loved — used his penis as a murder weapon is heartbreaking. Those 30 seconds when she was aware that she was going to die must have been terrifying. Why would a jury acquit a man of such a gruesome femicide? The answer to this question lies in porn culture.
“The last thing these two adults did together was oral sex. He thought that’s how she died,” Patterson’s lawyer said during the trial. “The humiliation of having to tell people was just too much for him.” In other words, a man who, during his trial, focused on trying to show his genitals to a jury, and used his alleged “big penis” as a defense against a murder charge, wanted this jury to believe he was too shy to call an ambulance or the police while Marquinez lay dying. And they believed him.
Tragically, this is not the first time that a jury has found it plausible for women to “consent” to being murdered in the name of sex.
In 2015, a 49-year-old man said that his 91-year-old neighbour had suffocated during a “sex game” in Porto, Portugal. His semen was found on her body and it was revealed in the autopsy that the woman had died from asphyxia. The woman’s body had “extensive genital injuries,” but the local newspaper called the woman’s death “a tragic accident.”
In 2011, Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous mother of three daughters, was murdered by a john who stabbed her in her vaginal canal, leaving a perforation that was more than 11 centimeters long. She did not die immediately. Gladue was placed in a bathtub where she bled to death after hours of agony. Her murderer, Bradley Barton, was found not guilty of first-degree murder in a trial wherein Gladue’s disjointed pelvis was physically shown to the jury. The jury preferred to believe that the fact she was a prostituted woman somehow justified her death and that being stabbed in the vagina could be “an accident” following “consensual sex.”
During the trial, it was revealed that Barton’s search history included pornography that sexualized violence against women. The judge described finding pornography depicting “gaping vaginas and extreme penetration and torture,” but this evidence was not permitted in court because it was obtained unlawfully by the police. During trial, Barton’s defense argued that even though Gladue must have gone through “an awful final hour of her life,” the jury should not let that gruesome factor “poison” them against Barton. The jury agreed.
QotD: “I keep reading the Fae tweet and keep wondering what exactly domestic violence “gone right” would be. Presumably when the woman complies before the man has murdered her?”
I keep reading the Fae tweet and keep wondering what exactly domestic violence “gone right” would be. Presumably when the woman complies before the man has murdered her?
Peddling of falsehood wrapped up as knowledge (actually most men who commit intimate partner femicide make a decision to kill) and the minimising of the impact of domestic violence & abuse for those who live with it let alone those who have been killed, a new low for Jane Fae