Resurrecting 'She Asked for It': The Rough Sex Defence in Canadian Courts

58 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2022 Last revised: 24 Oct 2022

See all articles by Elizabeth A. Sheehy

Elizabeth A. Sheehy

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Isabel Grant

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law

Lise Gotell

University of Alberta

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

According to rape crisis centres and women’s shelters in Canada, the US and the UK, women are reporting extreme levels of violence by men who rape them, including strangulation—a particularly dangerous form of violence that is highly predictive of femicide. At the same time, accused men are deploying the “rough sex” defence when the victim—nearly always a woman—has suffered bodily harm or even death as a result of the accused’s actions. This defence is used to suggest that the woman enjoyed strangulation, bondage or other violence as part of “sex play”, inviting judges and jurors to find that she either consented to the acts causing bodily harm or that the man honestly believed she consented.

Keywords: 'rough sex defence', sexual assault, consent to bodily harm, BDSM, strangulation

Suggested Citation

Sheehy, Elizabeth A. and Grant, Isabel and Gotell, Lise, Resurrecting 'She Asked for It': The Rough Sex Defence in Canadian Courts (2022). Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2022-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4130532 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4130532

Elizabeth A. Sheehy

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

Isabel Grant (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
Canada

Lise Gotell

University of Alberta ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R3
Canada

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