Category Archives: Pornography harms

QotD: “A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill”

A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill.

The bill now rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm.

The wide-ranging legislation will also place a duty on councils in England to provide shelter for victims of abuse.

It has been broadly welcomed by campaigners but some said it failed to protect groups such as migrant women.

The bill, which covers England and Wales, has passed its final stage in the Commons and will now be debated in the House of Lords.

It was introduced with cross-party support by Theresa May’s government in July last year but its passage was delayed by December’s general election.

The government said the bill would ensure that children who saw, heard or experienced the effects of domestic abuse would be treated as victims under law.

It would also introduce the first legal government definition of domestic abuse, including economic abuse and coercive or controlling non-physical behaviour.

Speaking in the Commons, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said one of the most “chilling and anguished” developments in recent times had been the increased use of the “so-called rough sex defence”.

Moving a new clause which would ban the defence in England and Wales court proceedings, she said: “We’ve been clear that there is no such defence to serious harm which results from rough sex.

“But there is a perception that such a defence exists and that it is being used by men, and it is mostly men in these types of cases, to avoid convictions for serious offences or to receive a reduction in any sentence where they are convicted.”

[…]

Campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants to make it the expectation that murder charges will be brought against those suspected of killing a person during sex, has hailed the amendment as a “victory”.

The current law says that if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone, while to murder someone, there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).

We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong'” in the UK, since 1972.

The group claims that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.

There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, described the bill as “a landmark piece of legislation”.

However, she said there were “some very important omissions”, including protections for victims of domestic violence who committed crimes in the context of being in an abusive relationship.

Other campaigners have said the legislation needs additions to better protect migrant women.

Gisela Valle, director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, said the bill had no provision for safe reporting mechanisms, meaning migrant women who reported abuse to police could be questioned about their immigration status and even detained.

Additionally, some immigrants with an insecure status cannot currently access public funds or housing and refuge support.

Ms Phillips also raised the issue of victims of domestic abuse who are migrants and have no recourse to public funds.

She told the Commons “it cannot be right” that “humans, who when they have been raped, beaten, controlled and abused, before we ask them how we can help, first we ask what stamp is in their passport”.

Ms Atkins said the government was launching a £1.5m pilot fund to support migrant victims of domestic abuse who are unable to access public funds.

(source)

QotD: “The clause added by the government rules out ‘consent for sexual gratification’ as a defence for causing serious harm”

The amendment outlawing the “rough sex” defence will be added to the Domestic Abuse Bill today, as it enters its Report Stage in the House of Commons. The clause added by the government rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm, in England and Wales.

Labour’s Harriet Harman, who led calls for the law change, has told the BBC a serious review of cases dropped because of the “rough sex” defence is an “incredibly important” next step for the justice system.

“I’m seeking a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions because they’ll need to issue new guidance for cases going forward. I think they should look back – there’s enough evidence of cases where [the CPS] have taken as read the rough sex gone wrong defence and therefore not prosecuted.

“The whole system is failing victims. Rape is such a serious crime, a violation of a woman both physically and mentally, it is important defendants are brought to justice.”

The opportunity to have their cases retrospectively reviewed could result in a new wave of justice for victims whose cases never made it to court.

The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This campaigned for the “rough sex” defence to be outlawed. They found that over the last decade, 60 women in the UK had been killed by men who claimed in court the women were “consenting” to the violence. In 45% of these cases, they found the defence led to a lesser charge such as manslaughter or no crime at all.

While the “rough sex” defence has typically been associated with the murder trials of women, like the killing of backpacker Grace Millane, it also includes assaults involving serious harm.

BBC Three has found four cases in 2020 so far where “consent to rough sex” was claimed in court to charges of rape and sexual assault. And 17 cases over the last five years.

We Can’t Consent To This thinks the justice system will be unable to tell how many cases have been dropped because of the “rough sex” defence. Moving forward they want the CPS and police to start collecting this data and report any failings. “It can’t be left to us”, they add.

[…]

The Centre for Women’s Justice say if the government requested the CPS and police review all sexual violence cases dropped because of the “rough sex defence”, this would grant the “exceptional circumstances” needed for victims to appeal their decisions.

Anna Mazzola, a human rights solicitor for the Centre, says “we’re increasingly seeing the CPS refusing to bring cases, even when they appear to be strong cases.

“It would be very helpful if the review was ordered – there is certainly mileage in looking at all of the cases where the CPS or police have decided not to prosecute on the basis that the defendant might claim the rough sex defence and working out whether those cases were correct.

“We’re aware of some very concerning decisions, but those are only cases that have come to us, so it’s quite possible that lots of these cases are going under the radar.”

The CPS said claims a victim had “consented” to an assault does not stop them from prosecuting: “Tackling violence against women and girls has long been a CPS priority, and one we remain strongly committed to.”

Full article here

QotD: “Here’s what’s about ethical porn: it doesn’t matter. It makes up such a tiny proportion of the industry, it’s like putting a chicken in your back garden and claiming you’ve fixed factory farming”

Whenever I agree to write about porn, it’s followed by an immediate plummeting of my soul: oh God, I’m going to have to look at PornHub now. PornHub is the second biggest website in the world for adult content by traffic, but in terms of public profile, it’s far and away the leader. And PornHub is horrible. For example, I just checked in on the homepage and was greeted by multiple clips promising mini-versions of Flowers in the Attic. Ugh. Why am I here? Oh yes, to find out if PornHub will let me search for racist porn.

Not that I really have to search. In the homepage thumbnails, everyone is white, unless their race can be sold as a kink. Japanese wife. Chocolate. In the sidebar, I can click on the category “interracial”, because this is 2020 and apparently two people of different skin tones getting down is still as niche an interest as “babysitter” or “smoking”. “Female orgasm” is also a category, for that subset of men who are interested in whether a woman actually enjoys it. Have I mentioned, I hate PornHub.

But I am a brave journalist, so I press on. (Is this sex? Do people like this? Are women people? No, we are sluts and milfs and bitches, according to PornHub.) Will PornHub let me search for racist porn? Spoiler: it will. I put the word “racist” in the search bar, and am served multiple videos, all of which are definitely racist.

Some of them, though, have a veneer of woke, which is very heartwarming. I search for Black Lives Matter: I get a video tagged “black cocks matter”, and one “ebony slut”. All this should be a surprise, because PornHub was recently vaunting its progressive credentials. “Pornhub stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice”, the company tweeted, along with links to Black Lives Matter-adjacent campaigns that followers could support. It’s not a surprise, though, because PornHub is horrible.

If I wanted to be chippy, I would call this a perfect example of the indulgence model of modern liberal mores. Pay your tithe to the bail fund as directed, get back to whacking off over racism with your conscience salved. But actually, I would probably be being both chippy and incorrect, because does anyone really feel bad about their porn? The generally agreed position is that porn exists somewhere outside morality. Things which, at a tenth of the strength, would be instant cancellation offences in any other medium are granted licence in porn because someone, somewhere got an erection from them.

The porn industry’s success in positioning itself beyond petty questions of good and bad is one of the great marketing triumphs of modern times. If it feels good, watch it. Heck, watch it at work if you want to. Here, I run into some tricky terrain, because what happens in the dark between our own heads and hands is really no one’s concern but our own, and if you want to think about that particular woman bent OTK in a lace chemise then what does it have at all to do with me. Hectoring our fantasies seems a spectacularly fruitless endeavour.

But porn is not fantasy. Porn is business, and a profoundly exploitative one. I don’t mean that in the no-doubt tiresome feminist sense that it exploits women, although it does. I mean it in the sense that, in its modern form, pornography is an industry where the capitalist rinses out the worker, then puts up a blogpost to mark International Sex Workers’ Day, which aims to “honor sex workers” and “push for better working conditions”. The fact that PornHub is a major driver of those working conditions is, well, wouldn’t you like to look at some tits instead of thinking about it?

PornHub belongs to the conglomerate MindGeek, which also owns multiple other “tube” sites for watching free porn. Where does this porn come from? From production companies, many of which are also owned by MindGeek. In many cases, if a performer wants to defend their royalties on a clip, they’ll need the help of the copyright holder, which just happens to also be the company drawing down a profit by serving it for free, so good luck with that. Another group of people have also struggled to get PornHub to remove content that violates their rights: victims of “revenge porn”, whose abusers upload their images to the “amateur” category.

At this point in the argument, people like to say: but what about ethical porn? Here’s what’s about ethical porn: it doesn’t matter. It makes up such a tiny proportion of the industry, it’s like putting a chicken in your back garden and claiming you’ve fixed factory farming. Apologies to those who twist themselves into astonishing shapes to produce the kind of porn they think should exist, but at best all they’re doing is providing a talking point for people who want to stall the discussion by saying “what about ethical porn?” so they can get back to their vertically integrated faux-incest.

If you want to talk about ethics in porn, let’s discuss why the industry has yet to have its #metoo moment. There was a possibility of one in 2015, when the performer James Deen was accused of on-set assault by multiple female costars; but the reckoning failed to come. (Deen denies any wrongdoing.) Journalists with an interest in the porn industry proved surprisingly incurious about following these allegations up. For example, writer Emily Witt met Deen during a set visit for an article published in n+1. The abuse claims emerged while she was revising that piece for inclusion in her 2016 book Future Sex: rather than address them, Witt cut him from the copy.

Now another porn celebrity has been not just accused, but charged: the performer Ron Jeremy faces three counts of rape and one of sexual assault. And perhaps this will, finally, be the occasion for a conversation about the attitudes inculcated by an industry which makes a show of brutality against women. Probably not, though. The porn industry could hardly survive if it went in for any self-reflection at all. But, then the hollowness of PornHub’s ethical credentials is obvious. It’s the credulousness of porn’s defenders that’s the really shocking thing.

Sarah Ditum

QotD: “More than 60 victims have been forced to go to court over the past decade to deny that they consented to strangulation, assaults or violence”

More than 60 victims have been forced to go to court over the past decade to deny that they consented to strangulation, assaults or violence, according to the campaign to end reliance on the “rough sex” defence.

Figures for the number of such court appearances have been collected by the organisation We Can’t Consent to This, which supports amendments to the domestic abuse bill being considered by MPs on Thursday.

The lobby group is one of several calling for changes to the law to prevent defendants blaming victims – almost invariably women – for the violence inflicted on them by alleging they had consented during “sex games”.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson repeated his commitment to end the rough sex defence. During prime minister’s questions, he was challenged by the Conservative MP Laura Farris who asked: “When men who kill their partners in appalling acts of sexual violence establish in court that ‘she asked for it’ and avoid a murder conviction, does [he] agree that the time is now to end the rough sex defence?”

Responding, Johnson, whose fiancee, Carrie Symonds, was a victim of predatory sex attacker John Worboys, said: “She raises an incredibly important point and we do – we are committed to ensuring that the law is made clear on this point and that defence is inexcusable.”

Rebecca Hitchen, campaigns manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, welcomed the prime minister’s statement: “It is past time for the government to get rid of the ability of men who murder women to claim in court as a defence that it was consensual and part of rough sex.”

Campaigners argue that the defence should not have been open to any defendant since 1993 when a test case, R v Brown, in the House of Lords resulted in the conviction of a group of men for assault and wounding even though their sadomasochistic victims willingly participated in the violence.

But We Can’t Consent to This has assembled evidence of 67 cases in the past 10 years in which it said victims were nonetheless required to come to court to deny that they had consented to physical attacks. Going back as far as 1997, it said, it had discovered a total of 115 such cases.

The cases involved women whose attackers claimed they consented to acts including “waterboarding, wounding, electrocution, strangulation and asphyxiation, slapping, beating, punching and kicking, and, in one case, a shotgun fired intimately at a woman,” the campaign group said. “In every one of these cases, the victim insisted that she did not consent to the violence.”

The organisation believes that, going back to the 1970s, as many as 60 women in the UK have been killed in violence, which it was claimed they had consented to.

Among those who died in similar circumstances recently was the British backpacker Grace Millane who was murdered in Auckland, New Zealand.

“There was a tenfold increase in rough sex claims between 1996 and 2016 in the UK and, in every case that we have found, the defendant has been male, many with a substantial domestic abuse history or other convictions for serious violence against women, like rape, kidnap or homicide,” the campaign group said.

“We have long said that the existing law is not working. Our evidence shows that although case law in England and Wales is said to prohibit ‘consent’ claims in defence to violence, it is routinely disregarded in the criminal justice system, and these claims work, resulting in a lighter sentence, a lesser charge, or no prosecution at all – and the woman’s sexual history used to prove she asked for it, even where she says she didn’t.”

The organisation has also accused the Crown Prosecution Service of failing to pursue charges in a recent case in which a woman who reported a violent assault to police has, reportedly, been told in a CPS letter that the prosecution would not be pursued because “the courts have shown an interest in changing the law so that the suspect could say that you consented to these assaults. This would be difficult to disprove”.

A CPS spokesperson said: “Tackling violence against women and girls has long been a CPS priority, and one we remain strongly committed to.

“Claims that a victim has ‘consented’ to an assault do not stop us from prosecuting. We work closely with the police to build and strengthen cases, and if our legal test is met, we will always prosecute, no matter how challenging the case.”

(source)

QotD: “CPS backed off assault charge over fear of ‘rough sex’ defence”

Prosecutors declined to pursue charges against a man accused of assault because of fears he would claim it was consensual sexual behaviour — a decision that will intensify pressure to outlaw the “rough sex gone wrong” defence.

The woman involved said she had been physically and sexually assaulted but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told her that “the suspect could say you consented to these assaults”.

The Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote to Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, yesterday asking him to review the case. “If that’s what is going to happen, there could be no prosecutions of sexual offences at all, because in every case the defendant could say ‘she wanted it’,” Harman said.

MPs and campaigners want to ban what has been called the “Fifty Shades” defence, in which men who admit to causing fatal injuries to a woman claim they resulted from a consensual sex game. The name comes from the bestselling novels about a couple involved in bondage and submission.

A key pillar in the defence of the killer of the British backpacker Grace Millane, strangled in New Zealand last year on the night before her 22nd birthday, was that she enjoyed “rough sex”. He was found guilty of murder.

There is cross-party support for outlawing the defence, with Harman leading the parliamentary campaign alongside the Conservative MP Mark Garnier. The pair have backed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will go to a bills committee this week, to try to prevent men who have committed murder escaping justice by using this defence. Ministers have pledged to look into it.

Campaigners led by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), a legal charity, also want the bill to make strangulation a specific offence. Nogah Ofer, a solicitor with CWJ, said strangulation was a “red flag” that indicated victims of domestic abuse were at the highest risk, but “police often minimise the crime as it doesn’t leave many, or sometimes any, visible signs . . . so perpetrators are only charged with common assault”.

The letter from the CPS to the alleged victim in the assault case stated: “A prosecution could follow in relation to this offence, but the courts have shown an interest in changing the law so that the suspect could say that you consented to these assaults. This would be difficult to disprove,” citing the specifics of the case.

It went on: “If I prosecuted this offence it is likely to lead to lengthy legal proceedings in which the background to the case would have to be visited as far as the sexual practices that led to and accompanied the infliction of the injuries. In my opinion it is not in the public interest to pursue this charge.”

Since 1972, men have used “rough sex” as a defence following the deaths of 60 women, according to the campaign group We Can’t Consent To This. Just under half of the men did not face a murder charge.

The CPS said: “We carefully consider all the facts of every individual case before making a charging decision. If we are satisfied that the legal test for a criminal offence is met, then we will always prosecute.”

(source)

QotD: “Domestic Abuse Bill – the need for an offence of non-fatal strangulation”

About Centre for Women’s Justice

Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) is a legal charity working to hold the stateto account on the response to violence against women and girls. We are a lawyer-led organisation whose work focuses on challenging failings and discrimination against womenin the criminal justice system

Summary

CWJ is calling for a free-standing offence of non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation.We believe that this form of offending is currently significantly under-charged across the UK.Our view is strongly supported by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the Victim’s Commissioner and numerous domestic abuse charities.

What is non-fatal strangulation?

It is widely recognised that non-fatal strangulation and asphyxiation (eg. suffocation with a pillow) are a common feature of domestic abuse and a well known risk indicator [1]. Strangulation and asphyxiation are the second most common method of killing in female homicides – 29% or 17% [2] -as compared to only 3% of male homicides [3]. In addition, research highlights how non-fatal strangulation is frequently used as a tool to exert power and control, and to instil fear, rather than being a failed homicide attempt [4]. It sends the message that ‘if you do not comply this is how easily I can kill you’. Non-fatal strangulation is a gendered crime.Reports describe strangulation as extremely painful and the inability to breathe as very frightening. Loss of consciousness can occur in 10 to 15 seconds and lack of oxygen to the brain can result in mild brain damage. Although there is little or no visible injury, numerous longer-term effects are reported, including fractured trachea/larynx, internal bleeding, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus, ear bleeding, sore throat, a raspy voice, neurological injuries such as facial and eyelid droop, loss of memory and even stroke several months later as a result of blood clots [5].

Why is a new offence needed?

Under-charging demonstratesa failure by both police and prosecutors to appreciate the severity of non-fatal strangulation. A separate offence would also emphasise the importance of non-fatal strangulation when risk assessments are carried out.

The current legal position

There is currently no distinct offence of non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation [6] and it can be difficult to prove intent for an offence of attempted murder. In the majority of cases prosecutions can only be brought for an assault offence. The lack of observable injuries means that offenders’ conduct is often minimised, and they are charged with common assault rather than with actual bodily harm (ABH). CPS guidance for prosecutors on offences against the person [7] states that when deciding whether to charge with common assault or ABH:

Whilst the level of charge will usually be indicated by the injuries sustained, ABH may be appropriate … [where] the circumstances in which the assault took place are more serious e.g. repeated threats or assaults on the same complainant or significant violence (e.g. by strangulation or repeated or prolonged ducking in a bath, particularly where it results in momentary unconsciousness.) (emphasis added)

The guidance indicates that non-fatal strangulation and suffocation offences should result in a charge of ABH rather than common assault. However, in our experience this does not take place in a great many cases.

Realities on the ground

CWJ carries out training for local domestic abuse services around England and Wales. Over the past two years we have trained over 32 organisations at 24 training days in London, the Midlands, North East and North West of England, North and South Wales and the South East. Our experience is based on reports by frontline domestic abuse support workers who take part in our training. CWJ’s training includes the CPS guidance quoted above. In most, if not all, training sessions domestic abuse support workers report that cases they deal with involving strangulation are generally charged as common assault. We hear this consistently and from support workers across the country. We therefore believe this to be a systemic issue rather than local isolated failings.

Charging decisions

Common assault is a summary offence which can only go to the Magistrates Court, whereas ABH is more serious ‘either way’ offence which can go to the Magistrates or the Crown Court. Police have the power to charge summary offences without a charging decision from the CPS [8] We do not know whether in practice officers obtain input from CPS in such cases. Frontline support workers report that police officers tend to focus primarily on physical injuries when assessing domestic abuse situations. Strangulation and asphyxiation leave minimal injury and are therefore easily dismissed as relatively minor. However, prosecutors are also responsible for under-charging and for under-charged cases proceeding to trial.

CWJ frequently hears of cases where prosecutions are not brought because the six month deadline for charging summary offences has passed. Where strangulation is treated as a common assault, rather than ABH, cases are closed by the police due to this deadline, without referral to CPS. Had they been treated as ABH there would be no time limit for charging. A new offence must be an ‘either way’ offence to reflect the severity of the conduct involved and remove time restrictions.

Risk assessment

A separate offence of non-fatal strangulation will also help the police to identify this critical risk factor in their overall response to domestic abuse. This is illustrated by the Coroner’s report in 2019 following the inquest into the death of Anne-Marie Nield.

Anne-Marie Nielddied during a sustained assault by her partner, who had previously subjected her to non-fatal strangulation. Officers who dealt with the previous incidents failed to appreciate the significance of strangulation as a risk factor, and graded the risk as standard rather than high. There was no support offered to her and no referral to the multi-agency panel. The Coroner expressed concern that at the time of the inquest two and a half years later there was still no reference to non-fatal strangulation in the police force’s domestic abuse policy and a lack of understanding of the issue amongst the officers involved.

A freestanding offence

Strangulation has been identified in other jurisdictions to be a significant factor for risk assessment requiring a freestanding offence [9] In the US around 30 states have non-fatal strangulation offences and in Australia the state of Queensland introduced the offence in 2016, with other states due to follow [10]. A freestanding offence of strangulation or asphyxiation which is an either way offence will require police to treat such cases with the gravity they deserve and refer all such cases to the CPS for a charging decision. It will also draw the attention of prosecutors to the seriousness of this form of offending, with training around the particular links between strangulation / asphyxiation, domestic abuse and homicide.

For more information contact Centre for Women’s Justice n.ofer@centreforwomensjustice.org.uk

[1] The standard risk assessment tool for domestic abuse is the “DASH” checklist which includes a question aboutattemptsto strangle, choke, suffocate, or drown the victim /survivor. The factors within the DASH checklist have been identified through extensive research on factors associated with serious domestic violence and homicide.: https://safelives.org.uk/sites/default/files/resources/Dash%20risk%20checklist%20quick%20start%20guidance%20FINAL.pdf See Journal of Emergency Medicine (2007) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2573025/

[2] The Femicide Census for 2018 reports 46% of deaths by stabbingand 29% through strangulation or asphyxiation, blunt instrument 16%, kicking/ hitting/ stamping 13% and all other methods below 5%. See page 28 https://femicidescensus.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Femicide-Census-Report-on-2018-Femicides-.pdf

[3] Office for National Statistics Homicides in England and Wales year ending March 2019 reports 17% of women killed by strangulation or asphyxiation, with stabbing the most common method of killing https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/homicideinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch20193Office for National Statistics Homicides in England and Wales year ending March 2019, see note 2 above.

[4] Thomas, Joshi and Sorenson (2014) https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1190&context=spp_papers

[5] Sorensen, Joshi and Sivitz (2014) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202982/and Pendletonand Strack (2014) https://blog.ceb.com/2014/09/19/7-facts-every-judge-and-attorney-should-know-when-domestic-violence-involves-strangulation/

[6] Section 21 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 sets out an offence of attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle in order to commit an indictable offence, however this only applies when this is done in order to commit some other serious offence.

[7] https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/offences-against-person-incorporating-charging-standard

[8] Director’s Guidance on Charging Para 15.

[9] Edwards (2015) Criminal Law Review Issue 12 http://bear.buckingham.ac.uk/108/2/SusanE%20final.pdf This article also contains a detailed analysis of relevant English law.

[10] https://www.policyforum.net/red-flag-homicide/, see also note 4 above.

PDF of document here

QotD: “Why is porn so misogynist?”

Why is porn so misogynist? Answer: The greater the degradation of the woman, the hotter the porn. Porn only works to the degree it totally debases the woman, and turns her into the “cumdumster” that she certainly must be because she “chose” to be there of her own free will. That way he, the user, is NOT debasing her because she already debased herself, because well, she chose to be there. A circular argument that makes a feminist’s mind spin, and a man’s penis hard.

Gail Dines

(found on tumblr)

QotD: “Hull school ‘sorry’ after pupils researched porn homework on web”

A head teacher says he is “sorry” if homework asking pupils to define types of hardcore pornography led them to undertake inappropriate web searches.

The work was given to children, aged 11 to 14, at Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull, the Hull Daily Mail reported.

Principal Chay Bell stressed the assignment did not require internet research as the answers were in the material the pupils were sent.

Leon Dagon was “flabbergasted” when he saw his 13-year-old sister’s homework.

The work is part of pupils’ Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) learning, the school said.

The students were asked to “define” topics including hardcore pornography, soft pornography as well as female genital mutilation and breast ironing.

They were also asked questions about alcohol, drugs and smoking, as part of the homework.

Mr Dagon, who took to Facebook to share his concerns, said: “My little sister knows make-up and TikTok at the age of 13. She doesn’t know about hardcore porn, and then asking her to define it.

“The majority of children nowadays will now go on the internet to help them with their homework and if you type that kind of thing on the internet, God knows what’s going to pop up.”

Mr Bell said: “I am genuinely sorry if parents or students have unnecessarily researched any of these phrases and for any offence caused by this mistake.”

He said students “were not directed to research these topics themselves on the internet because all the answers to the questions posed are contained in the teacher-produced materials we shared”.

The work was in line with government guidance, but he added: “I have asked that no future PSHE materials contain any potentially sensitive content and will ensure all materials are fully age-appropriate.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said it was a matter for the school and had no further comment to make.

(source)

QotD: “Zoom hacker streams child sex abuse footage to Plymouth children”

Sixty children taking part in a fitness class on Zoom were subjected to footage of child sexual abuse streamed into the session by a hacker. The class was being hosted by a sports club in Plymouth, Devon.

Devon and Cornwall police believe the hacker gained access to the virtual class after the details of the event were published on online forums. The force is trying to track down the hacker and is working with Plymouth city council’s social care team to identify everyone who saw the footage.

Det Insp Lesley Bulley, who is leading the investigation, said: “We are progressing enquiries to identify the suspect in this distressing offence. We are working closely with Plymouth safeguarding children’s partnership and I request that if you have been affected by this then you come forward so we can provide the necessary advice and support.”

The force has issued advice to people using video conferencing, including ensuring that the host is the only person able to share material and that the meeting is locked to prevent unauthorised access.

Grahame Mace, a cyber-protection officer, said: “Keeping in touch with our friends and family is vital during this period of lockdown. But please ensure when setting up video conferencing sessions that you follow the guidelines on keeping your sessions private.

“First and foremost understand what security settings you have implemented and are available for your software, don’t leave yourself or others vulnerable, lock it down and keep the criminals out.”

The NSPCC children’s charity said there was a worrying pattern of meetings held on Zoom being “bombed” with images of child sexual abuse.

Following similar incidents across the UK and worldwide, the NSPCC is urging parents to supervise their children when using Zoom, and urging conference organisers to take steps to secure meeting details and passwords.

Other Zoom meetings that have been targeted include a wine-tasting event in Manchester. The incident left some participants in tears.

Andy Burrows, the NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy, said: “There appears to be a deeply disturbing trend emerging. While the responsibility for this lies with those uploading this terrible footage, it’s important to take precautions to lessen the risks posed to children and adults, including not sharing full meeting details and passwords on social media and only providing them to people you trust.

“Zoom needs to urgently act to protect their users, while all tech firms providing video conferencing services must immediately set out how they are responding to these very real risks.”

A spokesperson for Zoom said: “This incident is truly devastating and appalling, and our user policies explicitly prohibit any obscene, indecent, illegal or violent activity or content on the platform.

“We are looking into this specific incident to ensure the appropriate action is taken. Zoom strongly condemns such behaviour and recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meetings.

“We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action or directly to law enforcement authorities.”

(source)

QotD: “Coronavirus: Internet child abuse images ‘not being deleted'”

Coronavirus has led to a “global slowdown” in the removal of internet child abuse images, say campaigners.

The Internet Watch Foundation says tech firms have fewer staff to delete illegal material, making it easier for sexual predators to view and share.

Almost 90% fewer suspicious web addresses, or URLs, have been deleted during the pandemic, says the charity.

The warning comes as the IWF’s annual report reveals Europe is the “hub” for child sexual abuse photos and videos.

In 2019, 89% of URLs containing abuse material were found on computer servers based in Europe, compared with 79% in 2018.

Servers in the Netherlands, which has a strong technological infrastructure and low costs, hosted the most illegal content discovered by IWF staff – 93,962 URLs, or 71% of the total.

“We have seen a real and frightening jump in the amount of child sexual abuse material that is being hosted right on our doorstep here in Europe,” IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said.

Countries must adopt a “zero tolerance” strategy to the problem by tackling supply and demand, Ms Hargreaves added.

“While the UK doesn’t have this ‘hosting’ issue, our problem is that many consumers of child sexual abuse live here,” she pointed out.

She praised staff at the charity who last year removed 132,676 web pages and newsgroups showing child sexual abuse material, after assessing reports from people across the globe.

“It doesn’t matter how often the team sees this content, they never lose their humanity or fail to be shocked by the level of depravity and cruelty that some, a minority, engage in,” she said.

The immediate problem identified by the IWF is that social-distancing and self-isolation rules have cut the number of staff able to flag and respond to reports of illegal content in technology companies, call centres and law enforcement.

As a result, it is taking longer for child abuse images to be removed.

Between 16 March and 15 April, 1,498 URLs were deleted compared with 14,947 in the previous four weeks.

“Hotlines and abuse teams across the globe need to be aware there is a slowdown of this content being removed and to be mindful of doing what they can, within their ability, to get this content taken down,” the charity said.

(source)