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What is ‘rape pornography’? 

In 2011, after being alerted to the existence of websites devoted to 'rape pornography' Rape Crisis South London conducted research into the freely available content on ‘rape porn’ websites. We found many of the videos’ themes to be endorsing and promoting various criminal acts including kidnapping, additional physical violence and child sexual abuse.

These images are explicitly defining themselves as being rape, non-consensual or forced sex. Our research found video descriptions like 'young schoolgirls abducted and cruelly raped. Hear her screams.'; 'little schoolgirl raped by teacher' and 'little girls cruelly raped at home'; 'tiny girl sleep rape' and 'girl raped at gunpoint'. The websites hosting the content included words like brutal rape, real rape, savage rape, only rape, in their web address.

There is no grey area here. The viewers of these sites are encouraged to believe these images are real, that they are watching ‘real rape’. 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. 

What’s the loophole?

Since 1959, it has been illegal to publish pornographic “portrayals of rape” in the UK, but pornographic rape material is legally available online as it is uploaded abroad and outside UK jurisdiction. The 2008 Extreme Pornography legislation aimed to simply close this loophole but when finalised, it did not extend to rape depictions.

By adding the straightforward criteria of “rape or other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity” to the legislation (as done in Scotland), anyone in possession of such images would be committing an offence and the Internet Watch Foundation could act to restrict or block access to sites. 

What do we want? 

We are calling for urgent action on the legislation on Extreme Pornography in England and Wales. We have been working with Law Professors at Durham University who have drafted an amendment to the law. We want your support in closing this loophole through raising awareness of its existence and showing public outrage that such material is inexcusably beyond the law on extreme pornography. Help us tell Westminister we want this loophole closed immediately. 

Letter to
Prime Minster of the United Kingdom Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Dear Prime Minister,

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.