We know that you care about ending rape and sexual violence and that your government has given critical funding for Rape Crisis Centres. We are therefore asking you to urgently close a loophole in the Extreme Pornography legislation in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 which allows the lawful possession of pornographic images depicting rape which promote sexual abuse of women and girls in England and Wales.
The recent murder convictions of Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell, involving violent and misogynistic pornography, have been both shocking and distressing. Moreover, the recent report from the Children’s Commissioner about children’s, especially boys’, access to pornography and that it is linked to harmful attitudes and behaviour to women and girls, is extremely worrying.
Currently, it is a criminal offence in England and Wales to possess pornographic material which is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise obscene and explicitly and realistically depicts life threatening injury, serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals, bestiality or necrophilia (sections 63-67 of the CJIA 2008). Most prosecutions are for pornographic images of bestiality. The vast majority of images depicting rape are lawful to possess, although they are banned in Scotland under its Extreme Pornography legislation.
We are talking about sites that explicitly advertise sexually violent content and with titles such as ‘Father Raped Drunk Daughter’ and ‘Incest With Daughter at Family Cabin’. Research by Rape Crisis South London found that of the top 50 accessible ‘rape porn’ sites found through a Google search, 78% advertise rape content of under 18 year olds (e.g. “schoolgirl rape”) and 67% advertise rape content involving guns or knives.
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. We warmly welcome the Home Office-led Call to end violence against women and girls strategy including the ‘ThisisABUSE’ campaign to tackle sexual and physical violence amongst young people.
We believe that allowing the lawful possession of ‘rape porn’ undermines this good work and sends a contradictory message about the seriousness with which sexual violence is taken.
That sexual violence is a form of entertainment causes a huge cultural harm to our society and we urge you to take action to close this loophole.