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Grace Millane's Case Proves That That Women Will Always Be Judged For Casual Sex

Ciara Sheppard

| Last updated 

Grace Millane's Case Proves That That Women Will Always Be Judged For Casual Sex

Featured Image Credit: PA

Two years on from her tragic death, Grace Millane's killer has finally been unmasked.

Jesse Kempson, 28, strangled the 22-year-old British backpacker to death in Auckland, New Zealand after they met on a Tinder date on the eve of her birthday in December 2018.

The murder trial made headlines around the world, not least because Kempson claimed the victim's death was the result of rough sex gone wrong - a worrying defence that's been on the rise for some time, and one that the jury dismissed after hearing how he stuffed her lifeless body into a suitcase and buried it in nearby woods.

Yet as her family can attest, the worrying rhetoric of "why was she travelling alone?" and "she was putting herself at risk" has been hard to ignore.

Jesse Kempson can finally be named (Credit: Getty Images)
Jesse Kempson can finally be named (Credit: Getty Images)

Kempson's 17-year sentence (which he has since unsuccessfully appealed) was the culmination of a gruelling two-and-a-half week-long trial in which Grace's parents had to listen to the man who had murdered their daughter - the man Grace had met the day of her death - speak about her sexual preferences.

They were forced to hear how Grace was a member of BDSM sites, and her sexual history discussed in minute detail by her past boyfriends - all of which made headlines around the world.

Courts were told that Grace - who had been on an around-the-world backpacking trip, arriving in 'safe' New Zealand having completed six weeks in the supposedly 'dangerous' South America - was "naive and trusting".

This is a phrase that leaves a particularly sour taste in the mouth; as if it were her fault for being murdered.

Grace was on an around-the-world trip at the time of her murder (Credit: PA)
Grace was on an around-the-world trip at the time of her murder (Credit: PA)

Having spent six months working in hostels around Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Bolivia, you quickly learn the travelling lore. Casual sex is part of the culture, hostel bed hopping comes as standard, and spontaneous rendezvous with people you've just met tot up as just another hilarious travelling story to take home to your friends.

One friend I met in Rio de Janeiro went on a Tinder date with a guy and ended up at his in a neighbouring city, having to borrow money for an Uber home. Another hopped on a motorbike with a guy she'd just met and disappeared for two days.

I spent six months travelling around South America alone (Credit: Ciara Sheppard)
I spent six months travelling around South America alone (Credit: Ciara Sheppard)

Admittedly, you take more risks when you're travelling and your inhibitions are somewhat lowered - but women have the right to have adventures, be reckless and live their lives to the fullest without fear of being murdered.

And if they so sadly are, without having their sex lives dragged through the news.

Lucy, 26, spent eight months backpacking in Asia 2018, a trip she calls the "best time of my life".

"I dated someone in every location I went while travelling," she tells Tyla. "Most of my experiences were positive bar a couple.

"I was travelling so I wasn't planning on finding a long-term relationship. I had a lot of casual sex, but everyone does when you're travelling."

Lucy's experience is not unique: in 2015, 78 per cent of solo travellers were women, according to research via The Telegraph.

(Credit: Ciara Sheppard)
(Credit: Ciara Sheppard)

Jesse Kempson's use of the 'consensual rough sex' plea (of which there's been a ten-fold increase in murder cases in 20 years, according to We Can't Consent To This) manifests as the ultimate in victim-blaming.

Ultimately, Grace was blamed for travelling alone, for going on dates, for drinking, for having sex and having sexual preferences. It wasn't explicit but the subtext was plain to see.

Conversely, Jesse Kempson, her killer, was allowed to keep his anonymity until now; currently serving 17 years for Grace's murder, a court order banning his identification was lifted following his conviction for sex attacks on two other women.

Speaking after Kempson's unsuccessful appeal, Grace's family said: "Her sense of fun, her sense of adventure, her love of travel and exploring, along with her ability to light up any room she walked into it with her generosity of spirit, are memories we as a family cherish and how we will forever remember her."

Let's make sure we do her the same honour.

Topics: Life, Real Life

Ciara Sheppard
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