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British Film Censor Vows Stricter Approach to Depictions of Rape, Sexual Assault

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The British Board of Film Classification said Monday it will take a harder line following public feedback on its cesnorship role.

LONDON – The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is to up its interventions when it comes to depictions of rape, sexual assault and other sadistic violence in films and videos.

The British censor said Monday (Dec. 10) it will begin upping its activities in six weeks time in three main areas of public concern thrown up by fresh research carried out on its behalf in 2012.

The research carried out by research company Ipsos MORI in 2012 highlights concerns about certain depictions of sadistic and sexual violence to which the BBFC must respond.

While much of the public believe that sexual and sadistic violence are legitimate areas for filmmakers to explore, Brits are concerned by certain depictions which may be potentially harmful to some.

The areas include scenes which make sexual or sadistic violence look appealing, reinforce the suggestion that victims enjoy rape and scenes that invite viewer complicity in rape or other harmful violent activities.

Most of those involved in the research expect the BBFC to intervene to remove potential harm from such scenes.

The BBFC may also intervene where a depiction is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) as to pose a harm risk.

BBFC director David Cooke said: "There is no 'one size fits all' rule for any theme under the BBFC classification guidelines, as long as what is depicted is within the law and does not pose a harm risk. Once again the public have told us that context, tone and impact, and a work’s over all message, can aggravate a theme, or make it acceptable, even in cases of sexual and sadistic violence. The decision as to whether and how to intervene in scenes of sexual and sadistic violence is complex, but drawing out and applying these aggravating and mitigating factors is helpful in arriving at a decision which balances freedom of expression against public protection."

The research reaffirms views that adults should be able to choose what they see, provided it remains within the law and is not potentially harmful. 

But the respondents are concerned about "young men with little experience, and more vulnerable viewers, accessing sadistic and sexually violent content, which could serve to normalize rape and other forms of violence and offer a distorted view of women."

The BBFC said the research shows that movie audiences support intervention at the adult category, by the BBFC, to remove certain depictions of violence on the grounds that they consider them to be potentially harmful.