Success for Rape Crisis campaign to close the rape porn loophole

31 Jul 2013

Rape Crisis (England and Wales) and other Women’s Groups welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to amend the law on 'rape pornography'

On Monday 22nd July 2013, David Cameron announced that the Government will criminalise the possession of ‘rape pornography’ in England and Wales. This marked a triumph for Rape Crisis South London, a member of Rape Crisis (England and Wales), who, along with legal experts, has led a campaign to close the current legislative loophole since June. The move will bring the law into line with that in Scotland, where pornographic representations of rape are already classified as 'extreme porn' and therefore illegal. 

Fiona Elvines of Rape Crisis South London, who has researched the scale and content of ‘rape porn’ said: 

“We are heartened by the Government's announcement that it will close the loophole in existing extreme pornography legislation to include pornographic simulations of rape. Rape Crisis Centres such as ours understand first-hand the devastating impact of sexual violence on those who survive it, as well as horrific detail of the tactics and actions of the perpetrators.

“The Government today has made a significant step forward in preventing rapists using rape pornography to legitimise and strategise their crimes and, more broadly, in challenging the eroticisation of violence against women and girls.” 

Professor Clare McGlynn of Durham University said; 

“I would welcome the opportunity to work with the Government to ensure the reformed law carefully targets rape porn and is effective. The extreme porn law can be swiftly amended to send a clear message that rape should not be a form of sexual entertainment. Reform of the extreme porn law represents an important shift in priorities away from consensual activity to challenging the sexualisation of violence against women.”

The Rape Crisis South London-led campaign to #banrapeporn has seen an online petition acquire more than 72,000 signatures of support in a month. The campaign was stepped up following great public concern after the convictions of murderers Stuart Hazell and Mark Bridger who had searched for such material. 

Background – The Campaign to criminalise ‘rape pornography’:

Rape Crisis South London, supported by legal experts from the University of Durham, recently launched a campaign to persuade the Government to amend the existing extreme pornography legislation to criminalise the possession of ‘simulated’ rape pornography – porn which depicts the rape of ‘teens’ and ‘schoolgirls’ as well as adult women. Such material is currently legal if the actors are aged 18+. The same legislation already criminalises porn depicting bestiality or necrophilia. 

Rape Crisis South London and 100 others wrote to the Prime Minister on 7th June 2013 urging him to urgently close a loophole in the extreme pornography legislation in England and Wales which permits the possession of pornography depicting rape.

Recent research by Rape Crisis South London found that, of the top 50 accessible ‘rape porn’ sites found through a Google search, 78% advertise content depicting simulated rape of under 18 year olds (e.g. 'schoolgirl rape'). Of the top ten Google search results for ‘free porn’ half the websites host free rape pornography. 

The letter to David Cameron referred to the recent convictions of Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell, who had both used violent and misogynistic pornography as part of their murders of young girls, and drew attention to the fact that the possession of rape pornography is already criminalised in Scotland where law-makers took its harm into account when legislating.

Research conducted by Rape Crisis South London into freely available online ‘rape porn’ found descriptions including ‘young schoolgirls abducted and cruelly raped. Hear her screams’; ‘little schoolgirl raped by teacher’; ‘tiny girl sleep rape’; and ‘girl raped at gunpoint’. A breakdown of the research is available on request.

The letter to the Prime Minister also cited the recent report of the Children’s Commissioner on young people’s, especially boys’, exposure to pornography and its links to harmful attitudes and behaviours. 

More information, including the letter to David Cameron, can be found here:  http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/media-sexism