Is Sexsomnia real? Alleged rape victim's case dropped as defense lawyers make STARTLING claim

Is Sexsomnia real? Alleged rape victim's case dropped as defense lawyers make STARTLING claim
Jade McCrossen-Nethercott's case was dropped as defence argued she had 'sexsomnia' (Jade McCrossen-Nethercott/LinkedIn)

An alleged rape victim has received an apology from the Crown Prosecution Service after her case was dropped because defense lawyers claimed she had an episode of 'sexsomnia'. Jade McCrossen-Nethercott's allegations were dismissed when the defense argued that she had a rare sleepwalking condition causing people to engage in sexual activity while asleep. The case was dropped in October 2020 but the CPS has now admitted that the allegations should have been tested at trial. 

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However, there is no prospect of the case being reopened as McCrossen-Nethercott's alleged attacker was formally acquitted in court. The 30-year-old works for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. She has waived her right to anonymity to speak about her case and is pursuing legal action against the CPS.  "I want to hold the CPS accountable for their failings and hopefully make sure there is some change for the better," she said. "The whole thing has been horrendous and has had a terrible impact on me. It has been so bad I was considering suicide last year, and that has all stemmed from how this case was dealt with and ultimately closed. I often feel that this was more damaging than the actual rape itself." 

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McCrossen-Nethercott first reported being raped in March 2017, after she fell asleep fully clothed on a sofa after a party. She woke up with the feeling that she had been penetrated at 5 am. Besides, she was also half naked and had the recollection of what had happened.  A man was later charged with rape who was on the couch next to her after forensic swabs detected his semen. But he denied the charge. McCrossen-Nethercott claims that she had never heard of sexsomnia before and blames that it was brought by the defense after she made a comment about sleeptalking as a child during her police interview. They said this could have given the defendant the impression she was awake and consenting.

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"It came completely out of the blue, and it was baffling," she said. "I've had two long-term relationships spanning 13 years, and I've never had anything like this. I don't see how this can be one isolated incident, that just so happens to be the time that somebody I would never have consented to have sex with had sex with me." 

The law states that someone is not guilty of rape if they had consented to the act. The CPS had said there was no realistic prospect of conviction and the defendant was formally acquitted. CPS guidelines state that sexsomnia and sleepwalking defenses should be "robustly challenged." Malcolm McHaffie who is a chief crown prosecutor reviewed the case and found it should have gone to trial. More than 50 cases in the last 20 years have been uncovered in which a defendant claimed to have sexsomnia when accused of rape. Her case is thought to be the first where the defense argued the complainant has the condition.

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"Rape is a devastating offense and securing justice for a victim can, in a small way, help them to overcome the trauma," a CPS spokesman said. "We have apologized unreservedly to the victim in this case. The expert evidence and defendant's account should have been challenged and put before a jury to decide. We are committed to improving every aspect of how life-changing crimes like rape are dealt with and are working closely with the police to transform how they are handled. We remain positive about the progress that is being made." 

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Is Sexsomnia real?

Sexsomnia, also known as parasomnia is a type of sleep disorder. It occurs when one is in between deep, dreamless sleep and wakefulness. During this time, one may indulge in masturbation, fondling, sexual intercourse, pelvic thrusting, and spontaneous orgasm. In simple words, it is often referred to as "sleep sex" where a person engages in sexual activity when he is asleep without even knowing that he is doing it.

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According to Cleveland Clinic, Dr Horvat says that some people exhibit sexual behaviors during deep sleep in rare cases and have no memory of it. “In sexsomnia, the sexual behavior can be outside your normal behavior or it can be your normal sexual behavior,” she explains. “But you’re unaware it’s occurring, and it’s unintentional.”

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A study published in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that men are three times more likely than women to exhibit sexsomnia symptoms. Behaviors in men are more progressive while women are more likely to masturbate.

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