Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

Written evidence submitted by End Violence Against Women Coalition (CJC 04)

1. About the End Violence Against Women Coalition

1.1.1 End Violence Against Women (EVAW) is a UK-wide coalition [1] of women’s organisations, frontline service providers, survivors, human rights organisations, academics and activists who came together in 2005 to campaign for strategic approaches to all forms of violence against women and girls in the UK. We work to the UN definition of violence against women and girls (VAWG) as "violence directed at a woman because she is a woman or acts of violence which are suffered disproportionately by women" [2] .

1.1.2 Our members campaigned successfully for the Westminster, London and Wales Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategies and we run a network of experts on preventing VAWG. We campaign to end the prejudicial and sexist treatment of women across the media, and gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in 2012 with other women’s groups.

2. Clause 16 – including rape and assault by penetration in the definition of extreme pornography

2.1 There is very clear evidence about the harm of pornography, in particular to boys’ and men’s attitudes to women and to gender equality, and the clear correlation with sexual violence. We therefore supported Rape Crisis South London’s important campaign to include rape in the extreme pornography law and were very pleased at the Prime Minister’s announcement in July 2013. It is an anomaly that Professors Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley at the University of Durham have been raising since the legislation was first introduced in 2008. [3] A Change.org petition attracting over 73,000 signatories in a matter of weeks showed the huge public support for this change. Moreover, research and polling [4] shows that pornography is an issue that women and girls in particular are extremely concerned about.

2.2 We therefore warmly welcome Clause 16 in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which amends the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to include rape and assault by penetration with an object in the definition of ‘extreme pornography’. We believe that this change, and robust enforcement, needs to be explicitly linked into the government’s strategy to end violence against women and girls, which has a key objective of prevention.

2.3 The Prime Minister said in his speech of July 2013 "Put simply: what you can’t get in a shop, you shouldn’t be able to get online." [5] We note that the proposed reform does not bring a consistent approach to pornographic material online and offline, for the following reasons;

· It would not criminalise possession of harmful pornographic images that promote sexual violence or coercion more broadly. For example, images depicting incest currently available online titled ‘Real Siblings Hardcore Incest’ and ‘Daughter Sucking Her Father’s Dick’ would still be lawful to possess and download so long as the actors are over 18.

· The requirement for the image to be ‘explicit and realistic’ will exclude a great deal of imagery that is, nevertheless, harmful in that it promotes sexual violence.

· It excludes images that are not of ‘real people’ eg Hentai cartoons with titles such as ‘School fuck with pretty chick’ that are currently available online.

· The number of prosecutions will be severely limited by 16 (7b) which states: For the purposes of subsection (7A)- (a) penetration is a continuing act from entry to withdrawal;

2.4 Currently we have a wholly inconsistent approach to restricting and regulating harmful images across the media. We support the BBFC’s [6] approach to classifying films, including R18 rated films, whereby the following images will be cut that (p28):

· material which makes sexual or sadistic violence look normal, appealing, or arousing

· material which reinforces the suggestion that victims enjoy sexual violence

· material which invites viewer complicity in sexual violence or other harmful violent activities

2.5 Specifically in relation to pornography, the BBFC will not classify the following content:

· material which is in breach of the criminal law, including material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959

· material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in sexually abusive activity which may include adults role-playing as non-adults

· the portrayal of sexual activity which involves real or apparent lack of consent. Any form of physical restraint which prevents participants from indicating a withdrawal of consent

· the infliction of pain or acts which may cause lasting physical harm, whether real or (in a sexual context) simulated. Some allowance may be made for moderate, non-abusive, consensual activity

· penetration by any object associated with violence or likely to cause physical harm

· sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which do not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game. Strong physical or verbal abuse, even if consensual, is unlikely to be acceptable.

2.6 We recognise that there are many complex issues, including how far the criminal law should reach, and the distinction between publishing and possessing harmful images. We would welcome a wider debate about these issues.

2.7 Parliament may want to debate whether it is practical or desirable to widen Clause 16 to include images that portray other sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

3. Evidence about pornography and violence against women and girls

3.1 Research shows that violence against women and girls in the UK is widespread and routine:

· Sexual bullying and harassment are routine in UK schools. Almost one in three 16-18 year-old girls has experienced ‘groping’ or other unwanted sexual touching at school (EVAW).

· Pornography is widely accessed by children, boys in particular, and negatively affects their attitudes towards sex and relationships, women’s equality and is linked to risky sexual activity. [7]

· ‘Sexting’ (eg sending sexually explicit images via mobile phones) is often coercive and linked to harassment, bullying and even violence. (NSPCC). Girls are disproportionately affected. [8]

· One in six children aged 11-17 (16.5%) have experienced sexual abuse (NSPCC).

· One in three teenage girls has experienced sexual violence from a partner (NSPCC).

· Children affected by gangs experience high levels of sexual violence (OCC). [9]

3.2 The Home Office leads a cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and policy to restrict violent pornographic images should be explicitly linked into this agenda. Professor Hagemann-White’s model of perpetration of violence for the European Commission [10] identifies the culture of violence in the media and the sexualisation of women and girls as major factors operating at a structural level that contribute to the perpetration of VAWG. There is now much evidence to show that children increasingly have access to pornography online, whether through smartphones, laptops or other devices, and that this is linked to negative attitudes towards women and relationships, risky and earlier sexual activity. Furthermore, that there is a clear correlation between children, boys in particular, accessing pornography and violent attitudes. Boys are more likely to deliberately seek out pornography than girls who feel very uncomfortable about their exposure to it (Children’s Commissioner, 2013) [11] . There is increasing evidence about the way that some boys use ‘sexting’ in a coercive and abusive way and this needs to be seen in the context of boys’ access to pornography.

3.3 Portman Clinic psychotherapist John Woods has written [12] about the growing number of young patients referred to the clinic by social services, youth offender services and police for their use of pornography. This includes boys as young as 12 who have convictions for looking at child pornography, as well as children who have committed rape or sexual assaults. There are a steady flow of highly disturbing media reports of such cases, including a recent case of a 12 year old boy who had raped his 7 year old sister after watching hardcore pornography. [13]

3.4 This is confirmed by the practice-based experience of frontline service providers such as Rape Crisis Centres who are increasingly dealing with the impact of sexually harmful behaviour in boys at younger and younger ages, often linked to use or exposure to pornography. Rape Crisis Centres also see the impact of the way in which pornography is used as a ‘grooming’ tool by perpetrators of child sexual abuse. It is used as a coercive tool to normalise behaviours in young survivors who are shown pornography to prepare them for what they are told is normal, consensual behaviour.

4. Other responses to pornography

4.1 Support for survivors - Most victims/survivors do not report what has happened to them. It is therefore vital that there are specialist sexual violence and other support services in the community for victims/survivors of abuse, whether or not they report to the police. Such provision is currently extremely patchy, especially for children and young people. There is very little support for boys exhibiting harmful behaviour, or girls who are being sexually abused.

4.2 Educatio n - There is clear evidence from Ofsted [14] as well as our own research that currently children and young people have patchy access to adequate PSHE/SRE provision in schools and that this is leaving young people vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. As a matter of child protection, all schools should be required to equip young people with the tools they need to understand issues such as sexual consent and respectful relationships, online safety and gender stereotyping. As the research on sexual consent for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner showed, young people’s understanding of consent is informed by gender stereotypes and this means that targeted interventions and policies are needed. Boys and girls need to be given support to address their different needs and behaviours. The Home Office’s ThisisABUSE campaign is excellent because it is based on evidence about harmful sexual and other behaviour perpetrated by some boys and seeks to address this.

4.3 Public campaigns -As a comprehensive response to the harms of pornography, we would urge the Government to work with experts in the women’s sector and beyond to develop public campaigns and deliver awareness raising messages, linked in with materials for young people and others.

March 2014


[1] Members include Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, Object, Rape Crisis England and Wales, Amnesty UK, Women’s Institute, Imkaan, Women’s Aid, Eaves, Zero Tolerance, Equality Now, Fawcett, Platform 51, Respect, Refuge, Rights of Women, TUC and others.

[2] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation No. 19 (eleventh session, 1992).

[3] McGlynn & Rackley, ‘Criminalising Extreme Pornography: a lost opportunity’ (2009) 4 Criminal Law Review 245-260.

[4] http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/xnzsm6ut1l/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-140613.pdf

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-internet-and-pornography-prime-minister-calls-for-action

[6] http://www.bbfc.co.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/BBFC%20Classification%20Guidelines%202014_0.pdf

[7] "Basically... porn is everywhere" A Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Effect that Access and Exposure to Pornography has on Children and Young People, Office of the Children’s Commissioner, 2013

[8] Coy, M., Kelly, L., Elvines, F., Garner, M. & Kanyeredzi, A. (2013) Sex without consent, I suppose that is rape: how young people in England understand sexual consent London: Office of the Children’s Commissioner; Ringrose, J., Gill, R., Livingstone, S., & Harvey, L. (2012) A qualitative study of children, young people and ‘sexting’ London: NSPCC

[9] " It's wrong... but you get used to it" A qualitative study of gang-associated sexual violence towards, and exploitation of young people in England , University of Bedfordshire , Office of the Children’s Commissioner, 2013

[10] http://ec.europa.eu/justice/funding/daphne3/multi-level_interactive_model/understanding_perpetration_start_uinix.html

[11] Young Men Using Pornography’ by Michael Flood in Everyday Pornographies, 2011, ed K Boyle

[12] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2135203/Jamie-13-kissed-girl-But-hes-Sex-Offender-Register-online-porn-warped-mind-.html#ixzz22xJMlIem

[13] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-26418508

[14] http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/not-yet-good-enough-personal-social-health-and-economic-education-schools

Prepared 12th March 2014