Rape Crisis backs member Centre's Campaign to Ban Rape Pornography
Simulated images of rape are still lawful to possess, even after conviction of Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell
On 7th June 2013, Rape Crisis South London, supported by Rape Crisis (England and Wales) and 100 others wrote to the Prime Minister 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 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 (eg “schoolgirl rape”). Of the top ten Google search results for ‘free porn’ half the websites host free rape pornography. Sites include terms like ‘brutal rape’, ‘real rape’ and ‘savage rape’ in their web addresses (1).
The letter to David Cameron refers 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 draws 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 disturbing further breakdown of the research is here below at footnote (2).
Rape Crisis South London campaigner Fiona Elvines, who has conducted research into what is currently available online legally in England and Wales, said:
“The 2008 legislation on extreme pornography was brought in to address the way the internet had changed the distinctions between publishing, distributing and possessing some kinds of pornography. It intended to protect the public from harm by criminalising the possession of pornography which depicts life-threatening injury, serious injury to anus/breasts/genitals, bestiality or necrophilia (2).
“It is a serious omission not to have included images depicting rape and other non-consensual acts as they did in Scotland. This is not about making a distinction between real and simulated rape and child sexual abuse, with the latter being perfectly lawful to possess as long as it is ‘fantasy’ and actors are over 18. Permitting the possession of depictions of sexual violence as entertainment glorifies, trivialises and normalises such abuse – at a time when government statistics estimate that 85,000 women and girls are raped each year.”
The letter to the Prime Minister also cites 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. It asks David Cameron to consider reform in order that other Government work on tackling violence against women and girls is not undermined. Deputy Children’s Commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, has signed the letter to the PM.
End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition Director Holly Dustin said:
“The government has promised to take action to prevent sexual and other violence before it happens and has taken some positive steps. However, if it is really serious about keeping its promise it must look at the cultural backdrop against which women and girls are abused. ‘Rape porn’ glorifies sexual violence and undermines the government’s work.
“It sends a contradictory message about the seriousness with which sexual violence is taken. We support this important campaign and urge the Prime Minister to act urgently to close this loophole.”
Professor Clare McGlynn of Durham University, an expert in this area of law, said:
“The extreme pornography legislation is in urgent need of reform. The current law excludes the vast majority of pornographic images of rape. This is not a simplistic argument about rape pornography causing rape. It is undeniable that the proliferation and tolerance of such images and the messages they convey contributes to a cultural climate where sexual violence is condoned.
“Closing this loophole would not be difficult. Together with Erika Rackley at Durham University we have drafted changes to the law, and we believe that there would be huge public support for a swift change in the law. We await the Prime Minister’s response.”
Support this campaign by signing the online petition here.
Notes to editors:
1. FIONA RES + The loophole in legislation means that alongside images of rape, simulations of incest and child sexual abuse are freely, legally accessible in England and Wales as long as all participants in the image can be identified through digital imaging as being 18 or over, regardless of young appearance or contextual factors.
2. Research conducted by Rape Crisis South London from 2011, which was commissioned following Rape Crisis service users reporting to Rape Crisis that rapists had told them they were going to video the offence, found that:
Of the top 50 accessible ‘rape porn’ websites:
78% advertise rape content of under-18 year olds (e.g. “schoolgirl rape”)
67% advertise rape content involving guns or knives
67% advertise rape content involving “foreign” women
59% advertise rape content involving the woman bleeding
48% advertise rape content inflicted by a uniformed official (e.g. policeman / soldier)
44% advertise rape content involving incest
44% advertise rape content where the woman is unconscious / semi-conscious / drugged
100% of those being assaulted are female (average number of women is 1.1)
98% of perpetrators of rape are male (average number of perpetrators is 1.5)
Use of violence:
82% of perpetrators use restraint by force
50% of women are choked / hit / punched / kicked / slapped / have their hair pulled
18% of women are gagged
9% of perpetrators use a knife or gun
15% of women are bound
71% of women show signs of visible distress
65% of women express pain
59% of women are seen or heard crying
50% of women retaliate physically against the rape
44% of women express clear lack of consent
15% of women have a diminished capacity to consent (unconscious / semi-conscious / drugged)
The researcher stresses that the videos studied were only from the freely-available content, meaning they are shorter, less explicit, and less extreme than the paying sites they link to.
3. 86.5% of prosecutions for possession of extreme pornographic images (between June 2008-November 2011) were for images of of bestiality (CPS figures, 2012)
4. Government figures show that every year more than 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and up to 95,000 women are raped in England and Wales. Over a third of rapes involve a victim under the age of 16.
5. For more information on the law see briefing by Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley: http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/law/research/CriminalisingExtremePornographyLessonsfromEnglandandWales.pdf