The first dom who abused me (the first dom I had, who groomed me at 16) was a well respected member of the BDSM community. Locally, and across the state. Other members of the community – most who knew I was a minor – told me he was a good guy, a good dom, an exemplar of BDSM ‘values’. He was renowned across the state of New York.
When he was tired of abusing me, he gifted me to other upstanding members of the BDSM community.
When I moved, I was given to a dom of the BDSM community in my new state.
Don’t let them hide behind the idea of community; the idea that the community polices itself and protects subs. Just like the real cops, they only protect the abusive assholes.
They knew. They all knew. They knew when a dom violated safe words. They knew when he hurt a sub. They knew when he pushed past a sub’s limits. They knew about the grooming. They knew about the abuse. They knew about the rape. The community fucking knew. They just didn’t care.
Teachers say they do not feel equipped to deal with peer-on-peer sexual abuse because they have had no training.
More than 1,500 UK teachers replied to a questionnaire from BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 and teachers’ union the NASUWT.
More than half said they did not think adequate procedures were in place in their schools to deal with abuse.
Many are also unsure how to deliver elements of a new sex-and-relationships curriculum, which the government says third parties might now help with.
In England, the Department for Education has introduced a compulsory Sex and Relationships Education (RSE) curriculum in all schools, focusing on relationships in primary schools and sex and relationships in secondaries.
It has also asked Ofsted to review peer-on-peer safeguarding procedures.
Of the teachers surveyed, almost a third said they had witnessed peer-on-peer sexual harassment or abuse and almost one in 10 said they saw it on a weekly basis.
The debate about a culture of sexual abuse at schools has escalated in recent months after a website set up for victims to post their experiences anonymously gained more than 16,000 posts – some from children as young as nine.
The Everyone’s Invited website publishes anonymous allegations which refer mostly to sexual harassment carried out against young women by young men at their school or university.
The government has now launched a dedicated hotline with the NSPCC for young people who feel they have been harassed and abused.
Since the helpline launched at the beginning of April, it has received more than 350 calls, and 65 referrals have been made to agencies including social services and the police.
The new RSE curriculum in England was introduced in September 2020.
Andrew Fellows, associate head of policy at child-protection charity the NSPCC, says that while the new lessons are a positive development, schools have not been given the support and guidance to deliver the new curriculum effectively.
“Coercive control, sexual consent, healthy relationships, online safety, pornography – that’s all in there.
“But what schools haven’t been given is the guidance and the support to cover that and to deliver that in a way that works for their students,” he said.
Flora Cooper, head teacher of Crowmarsh Primary School in Oxfordshire, where staff have just started to teach the new RSE lessons, said: “In terms of external training, we’ve not had any.
“We actually haven’t seen much being offered in terms of training and it is absolutely in the training – that’s what is essential, which we don’t have.
“Until the teachers are confident with the delivery of the content, then I don’t think any of them will be confident and fully teaching the children the full curriculum. It feels as though we are on our own.”
Ofsted is currently conducting a review of safeguarding policies and practices relating to sexual abuse in state and independent schools and colleges.
It was ordered by the government after thousands of young people – mostly girls and young women – contacted the Everyone’s Invited website.
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said: “We’ve seen these enormously worrying and very shocking allegations that have come through the Everyone’s Invited site.
“One of the things that Ofsted will be looking at in this review is, are schools getting enough training and support? Do they need, for example, third parties to come in and train elements of that curriculum?”
Fewer than one in 60 rape cases recorded by the police last year resulted in a suspect being charged, analysis of Home Office figures seen by the Guardian reveals.
While there were 52,210 rapes recorded by police in England and Wales in 2020, only 843 resulted in a charge or a summons – a rate of 1.6%.
The figures will increase pressure on the government to deliver radical proposals to overhaul the treatment of rape by the criminal justice system in a long-awaited end-to-end review into how rape is investigated and prosecuted in England and Wales.
Commissioned two years ago, it was planned to be completed in spring 2020, but was pushed back as more research was carried out and a legal case against the Crown Prosecution Service was heard.
The justice secretary, Robert Buckland, told MPs last week it would be published “before the end of spring”. The Guardian understands it was due this week, but will now be published in June as wrangling continues over how far the proposed actions to tackle record low rape charges and convictions should go.
According to Guardian analysis, more than 100,000 rapes have been reported to police since the review was announced in March 2019, following concerns about a precipitous drop in the volume of rape cases being prosecuted. Separate independent judge-led reviews in Northern Ireland and Scotland have already published their findings and made hundreds of recommendations.
The England and Wales review, overseen by the Criminal Justice Board, includes input from, among others, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the attorney general’s and the Cabinet Office, Downing Street, the Crown Prosecution Service, the judiciary as well as police, charities and relevant inspectorates.
The victims’ commissioner, Vera Baird, said: “Bearing in mind that independent reviews in both Scotland and Northern Ireland have called for radical measures, we now can’t have anything less in a review in large part produced by the very agencies whose performance is in question.”
The Home Office figures are the latest in a downward trend in the volume of rape prosecutions. For every 10 cases the CPS prosecuted in 2016-17, it now pursues only three. The volume of prosecutions declined 71% between 2016-17 and the calendar year to December 2020, from 5,190 to 1,490.
The drop in prosecutions has led to fewer convictions. There were 1,917 fewer rapists convicted in the year to December 2020 than in 2016-17, a decline of 64%, as the CPS secured 2,991 convictions four years ago compared with 1,074 last year.
The figures come as fears mount about the growing backlog of cases in the criminal courts, with experts warning that the already high drop-out rate for rape victims is likely to increase.The number of victims dropping out of increasingly lengthy investigations and trial processes have rocketed from 25% five years ago to 43% in 2020.
Last week, Labour said the government should be held to specific targets to measure progress on male violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence, and said they would introduce a seven-year minimum sentence for rape. It proposed a national rollout of the system operating in Wales, where the government is held to account by 10 progress indicators, with a report published each year.
The Gillen review, published in May 2019, examined the treatment of serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland and made about 250 recommendations, including legal representation for rape complainants, while the Dorrian review in Scotland recommended the introduction of specialist rape courts in March 2021.
The England and Wales review is expected to recommend allowing rape victims to provide pre-recorded evidence before trial, barring the public from the courtroom more often and ensuring police return mobile phones to victims within 24 hours.
Campaigners are “astonished” that the government’s draft Online Safety Bill does not contain long-promised age verification checks for pornography.
Companies have invested heavily in the technology in recent years to prepare for legally-required checks.
But an earlier law requiring them was never enforced.
The government says the new bill will focus on online platforms where children are more likely to find pornography by chance.
This includes social media, but the law may not apply to many commercial adult sites because the current draft only covers websites containing user-generated content.
“I was completely astonished when I saw the bill,” said John Carr, Secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety.
“Pornhub, xHamster, all of the big commercial pornography sites – the largest single source of pornography in the world – are outside the scope of the bill or could easily put themselves outside of the scope of the bill.”.
They could do so by easily removing all user-uploaded content, he said – as Pornhub recently did within days of an investigation being launched into its user-generated content.
“They could do that and it would not affect their core business model in any way, shape or form,” Mr Carr said.
Proposals to make all UK pornography users confirm their age before accessing explicit content was first mooted in 2016.
It was made law in the 2017 Digital Economy Act – but that was never brought into force after repeated delays, and fears it would not work.
It was officially dropped in 2019, but the government pledged “other measures” would achieve the same results.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told a meeting of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee that the Online Safety Bill was designed to deal with social media sites, where he believed the biggest risk with pornography was “kids stumbling across it”.
He also suggested that most commercial porn sites “do have user-generated content on them, so most of them will be in scope”.
But he left the door open to firm up the rules.
“I don’t have a closed mind on this. If we could find a commensurate way of providing wider protection for children within it… I think there is a strong case for doing that,” Mr Dowden said.
“Companies hosting user-generated content, video-sharing or live-streaming will need to prove to an independent regulator they can stop children accessing harmful content,” a spokeswoman for DCMS said.
“Our new laws will therefore go further than the Digital Economy Act,” she added.
John Carr said there were “two scurrilous rumours” circulating about the omission; that either it was a tactical move by the government, or that the authorities simply did not want to enforce it.
But Baroness Floella Benjamin, a House of Lords member who has campaigned on issues around pornography, said she believes parliamentary review will “add back the essential elements” of the older law.
“It was obvious that adult sites would simply drop interactive functionality to evade age verification,” she said.
“The elephant in the room is what happens to protect children over the next three to four years,” she warned, because of the time it would take to develop and implement the rules.
“A seven-year-old will be a teenager before this new law comes into force,” she said.
In the end, Valérie Bacot could take it no longer. For almost four decades, her husband, Daniel Polette, had been a malign presence that dominated her life: he molested her when she was 12, made her pregnant at 17 and then trapped her in an abusive relationship, during which she bore him three more children.
Now in the ultimate humiliation, he was pimping her out for sex in the back of their battered Peugeot people-carrier in the woods near their home in Saône-et-Loire, in central France, getting his kicks from watching through a chink in the curtain in its rear window.
In March 2016, after an encounter with a particularly brutal client, Bacot claims to have grabbed the loaded pistol that Polette kept next to the driver’s seat and, closing her eyes, shot him.
Daniel Polette first began to show an unhealthy interest in Bacot when she was a young child
“There was a loud noise; the flash, the smell,” she said in an interview with Le Parisien last week. “I got out of the car, opened the door, he fell. I thought only of saving myself because I was sure he was going to kill me.”
But he was dead. When Bacot told her elder children she had killed their father, they hugged her. Two of her sons, together with her daughter’s boyfriend, then helped her bury his remains in the forest. “I packed the earth down like crazy with my hands. I was too afraid he would come out to kill us,” she recalled.
Next month Bacot, 40, goes on trial for murder in a case that has turned a spotlight on conjugal violence in France — and on the few victims who dare to fight back.
By this weekend more than 384,000 people had signed a petition demanding Bacot’s freedom. A television interview with her drew an audience of 4.5 million and a book in which she tells her life story went to the top of the bestseller list after its release last week.
“I was struck by Valérie’s strength, her courage and her intelligence. I really wanted to help her to tell this story,” said Clémence de Blasi, a journalist who ghostwrote the book, Tout le monde savait (Everyone Knew), having met Bacot after her release in October 2018 pending her trial.
In talking to Bacot’s children and others around her, de Blasi realised what a powerful hold Polette had over his wife. “He was watching her permanently, day and night,” she told me. “He was someone who was extremely dangerous and ready to do anything.”
It was Bacot’s mother who first brought Polette into her daughter’s life. After breaking up with her husband, she had a series of casual relationships before meeting the lorry driver in 1992 and inviting him to live in their home in the village of La Clayette, 60 miles north of Lyons.
Polette soon began to show an unhealthy interest in the young girl, who had just turned 12, going into the bathroom while she was washing and insisting on rubbing her with cream. Bacot’s mother tried to keep his activities quiet but word eventually reached the local authorities, and in 1995 Polette was arrested and convicted of sex offences against a minor.
Bizarrely, however, on his release after 33 months in jail, he was allowed to return to the home in La Clayette and was soon abusing Bacot again and raping her. After she became pregnant in 1998, she moved with him into a little house in Baudemont, a neighbouring village of a few hundred people, where, despite an age difference of 25 years, they lived as a couple for two decades, marrying in 2008.
According to Bacot’s account, it was anything but marital bliss: he frequently beat her, on one occasion breaking her nose and on another holding an unloaded pistol against her temple and pulling the trigger. “The next time there will be a bullet for you and for each of the children,” he told her.
Bacot thought of denouncing him to police but was fearful of how he would retaliate and did not dare to go herself. Instead she sent her children, but the police refused to listen to their claims and sent them away.
In the meantime, he had forced her into prostitution, initially only at weekends but then, after he gave up his job, almost full-time. To get clients, he made her distribute flyers in the local area. Once their daughter was 14, Bacot feared he would force the girl to sell her body too.
With no money and no friends or family to turn to, Bacot felt she had no alternative but to stay with her tormentor — until the day she shot him.
At first the family pretended he had gone away. But Bacot was eventually denounced to the police, apparently by the mother of her daughter’s boyfriend. At 6am one day in October 2017, the police came for her; she knew she was going to be arrested and for days had been sleeping in her clothes.
Bacot’s experiences show in an extreme form the plight of women who fall victim to conjugal violence and the failings of social services, according to her lawyers, Janine Bonaggiunta and Nathalie Tomasini. “Valérie was transformed by the extreme violence she suffered into a remote-controlled puppet who, against her will, became an object for her perverse husband,” they write in a preface to the book.
In too many cases, such violence ends with the woman being murdered. Earlier this month a 31-year-old mother-of-three in the Gironde died after her former partner shot her in both legs, poured petrol on her and set her on fire while still alive.
It was the 39th such killing this year, after 90 in 2020, according to Féminicides par compagnons ou ex (Women killed by partners or exes), a campaigning group that tracks such cases.
In a few instances such as Bacot’s, however, it is the victim who turns killer — as with Jacqueline Sauvage, whose case became a cause célèbre in France after she was sentenced to ten years in jail for shooting dead her husband in 2012 with a hunting rifle. He had abused her and driven their son to suicide. After an outcry over her treatment, François Hollande, then the president, gave Sauvage a full pardon.
Bacot’s growing band of supporters would like her to be pardoned too. “Even though she committed murder by killing her torturer,” their petition says, “given the 25 years of suffering she endured to general indifference, it is her freedom that we ask for.”
The campaign — together with Bacot’s highly unusual step of writing a book in effect justifying her actions — may not go down well with the court, however, and Bacot herself seems reconciled to her impending punishment.
“I am looking forward for this to end, to finally know what is in store for me,” she told Le Parisien. “I have done my job, fulfilled my role as a mother; now I can go to prison with peace of mind.
“I deserve to be jailed for a very long time. This trial is not only mine, it is also that of ‘the other’ ” — the term she uses for Polette, whose name she cannot bear to say out loud. “I hope that I can be stronger than him and for once in my life win against him.”
A father and a student campaigner are seeking a High Court hearing to consider whether the government should tighten youngsters’ access to porn.
Ioannis Dekas and Ava Vakil want the government to implement proof of age for access to pornography promised in the 2017 Digital Economy Act.
It comes as new research suggests the majority of 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK have recently seen pornography.
The government is currently preparing a new Online Harms Bill.
This bill would go further than the Digital Economy Act, giving the watchdog, Ofcom, powers to block access to online services – including social media platforms and search engines – which fail to do enough to protect children.
It is expected to be put before Parliament later this year.
Ioannis Dekas, a father of four sons, became concerned after he found one of his boys had accessed pornography.
He said this was a wake-up call for him and his wife as parents, making them confront the potential danger to their son and the impact on them all as a family.
“In the two weeks leading up to this moment, we’d noticed a drastic change in his behaviour, withdrawal, a sense of anger towards his siblings, we could sense frustration in his life.”
When he and his wife talked to their son, they found he was under peer pressure to be familiar with the language of porn.
“What I don’t often hear is how to deal with this. What happens in your household when this happens? With the availability, it’s not a matter of if, but of when.”
Mr Dekas wants the government to put in place the age verification requirements set out in part three of the Digital Economy Act – a law that was passed in 2017.
However, in 2019, the then Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said the measures would no longer go ahead, with efforts instead focused on the government’s wider Online Harms Bill.
But Mr Dekas says that this bill still has to be brought before Parliament, and may be delayed if detailed regulations need to be drawn up.
In the meantime, children are being exposed to pornography, he says, when they could be protected using the Digital Economy Act’s full powers.
Mr Dekas is bringing the challenge jointly with 20-year-old University of Oxford student Ava Vakil, whose letter about what she described as a culture of sexual violence in some schools went viral online.
Ms Vakil told the BBC: “I think porn is everywhere, and growing up as a young woman I’ve seen the influence of that.
“I think young men are ingesting pornography online to an extent that people aren’t aware of.
“I’m sure everyone, and particularly young women, can look back on so many conversations they’ve had with boyfriends and male friends and think 100% it was impacted by porn.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it would not be appropriate to comment on legal proceedings.
A spokesman said the government was committed to protecting children from harmful content.
The legal action comes as research from City, University of London found many teenagers had seen porn.
Prof Neil Thurman conducted a survey of more than 1,000 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK, using a panel from the specialist market research company Youthsite.
While 63% said they came across porn on social media, 47% said they had also visited porn websites.
The research suggests the government’s approach of widening the range of legislation to more platforms is right, Prof Thurman said.
More worryingly, 46% had used technology that disguises identity when browsing online, such as a virtual private network, and which could allow evasion of age verification.
However, Prof Thurman said this was not a reason not to regulate access.
“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring in legislation,” he said. “Firstly I think it would reduce accidental exposure, particularly for younger children and teenagers, and it does send a signal, not present at the moment, that they are accessing something inappropriate for their age group.”
Vanessa Morse, head of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation, said there was a “wealth of evidence” to show that viewing pornography led to harmful sexual attitudes and behaviours.
“The government’s own research, which it published this year, showed an association between porn consumption and real world violence against women. It’s no surprise considering one in eight porn videos contains sexual violence,” she said.
“Pornography has made violent acts in sex completely normalised.”
A new report by the internet safety body, Internet Matters, looking at children’s use of technology during lockdown has found that although the internet had a positive impact on how children learn and socialise, parents also reported a rise in the amount of online harms children experienced.
A survey of 2,000 parents in the UK in March this year suggests a 39% increase in the sharing of sexual images among children since January 2020.
Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, ambassador of Internet Matters, says “as children have come to rely on technology more than ever during the pandemic, and therefore spending sometimes several hours a day online, it also gives them increased exposure to all of the risks that go with it.”