After millionaire John Broadhurst was accused of killing 26-year-old Natalie Connolly in 2016, he claimed her death was the result of consensual, rough sex. She had died from the trauma of over 40 injuries, as well as alcohol intoxication, and was left at the foot of the staircase where she and Broadhurst lived. Broadhurst sprayed bleach in her face because “he didn’t want her to look a mess” and left her bleeding there, the BBC reported. And yet after admitting to manslaughter last week, Broadhurst was sentenced to just three years and eight months in prison.
Connolly’s death was, in the eyes of the court, not a result of murder but the result of “negligence” because Broadhurst waited to call for help until she was, in his bizarre choice of words, “dead as a donut,” and left her despite “a risk of death as a result of her condition would have been obvious.” During sentencing, Judge Mr. Justice Julian Knowles told Broadhurst, “You were capable of taking decisions and making choices. This was grossly irresponsible behavior by you...You left that vulnerable young woman to die in the saddest and most avoidable of circumstances.”
What seems to not have occurred to the judge is how exactly Connolly got into those circumstances in the first place. The “irresponsible” behavior is not that Connolly was left at the bottom of the stairs, bleeding from her injuries, but Broadhurst’s infliction of those injuries. The court’s infuriating decision paints Broadhurst as a fumbling man who merely engaged in a night of alcohol, drugs, and rough sex and just misunderstood how injured Connolly was at the end of it all as if her death was not the direct result of his actions.
And this has been the disturbing language used to support the idea that Broadhurst’s only mistake was to not help Connolly. Even the prosecution referred to Broadhurst as having “lost it” as the result of drugs and alcohol, which paints him as a person incapable of controlling himself, even though the prosecution argued he might have been trying to teach Connolly “a lesson” after Broadhurst found out she was talking to other men. The court had previously heard that Connolly and Broadhurst were interested in masochistic sex, but even if Connolly consented to rough sex, she surely did not consent to death. A man hurt a woman so much that she died, gaining a “blow-out” fracture to her eye and internal injuries in the process, and yet his innocence is hung up on whether or not she wanted to have “rough sex.”
The rationalization of Connolly’s death as the result of “negligence” and Broadhurst’s violence as the result of intoxication and sex, is just another example of how men get away with extricating themselves from their own crimes. When women are terrorized or assaulted while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they almost always assume the blame in the situation, even in death. And yet when it comes to men like Broadhurst, they are just passive actors who simply find themselves one day in the throes of abuse.