Last week, at least 40 people watched as a group of five or six men sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl on Facebook Live. How many notified the police?
The crime took place in Chicago, Illinois, and police only discovered the attack after the victim’s mother showed city police screenshots from the broadcast, reports the Guardian. She told Supt. Eddie Johnson her daughter had been missing since Sunday and showed him screengrab photos of the alleged assault. According to reports, it is the second time in recent months that the Chicago police department has investigated an apparent attack streamed live on Facebook.
The spokesman said Johnson immediately ordered detectives to investigate and the department asked Facebook to take down the video, which it did.
The spokesman said detectives had found the girl and reunited her with her family. He said she had told detectives she knew at least one of her alleged attackers, but it remained unclear how well they knew each other. Investigators are questioning several people, but no one is considered a suspect yet and no arrests have been made.
The spokesman said Johnson was “visibly upset” after he watched the video, both by its content and the fact that there were “40 or so live viewers and no one thought to call authorities”.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said she had no specific comment on the Chicago incident but that the company took its “responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously”.
“Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook,” she said.
Normalization of porn
That no one reported this incident suggests that it was received much the same way pornographic content from hardcore online video sites is received, at best with a shrug, at worst with the idea of no harm, no foul. After all, in this day in our digital age, videos of real rape are viewed like just another category of porn people watch on the internet.
But there’s something else more alarming at work here. People are certainly being desensitized to porn and, it’s not hard to see that as a result, to violence against women.
In fact, a 2016 survey shows nearly half of adults believe that images of “sexual acts that may be forced or painful” are not “wrong.” Only 50% of teens and young adults surveyed (ages 13 to 25) think it is wrong to view these images of violent porn.
These incidents and the attitudes toward violent, explicit images can be at least in part attributed to the increased availability and viewership of pornography and the symptoms that have sprouted up as a result. The effects of the pornification of our society have resulted in the normalization of porn, escalation behavior and acceptance of rape culture.
Porn continues to be normalized via marketing, online news outlets and in blockbuster feature films. As porn becomes increasingly normalized, porn sites have seen an increase in viewership and viewing time, with one free tube site logging over 4,599,000,000 hours of porn watched in just one year—that’s equal to 5,246 centuries. Not only that, studies show that porn fosters the acceptance of rape culture. And if more and more people are watching, this acceptance will only increase.
Is it any surprise that, as the need for more extreme pornography has grown with the rise of internet porn, we’re also seeing a rise in sexual assault broadcast online with an alarming lack of concern by viewers? Throw in the overall disconnect that exists when you put a screen between personal exchanges, and we’re witnessing a shift in how society as whole perceives sexual assault and acceptance of graphic content that used to be considered extreme but is now either normal or passé.
The connection between porn and violence
A few years ago, a team of researchers looked at the most popular porn films—the ones bought and rented most often.  From that group, they randomly picked 50 and analyzed them. Of the 304 scenes the movies contained, 88% contained physical violence. On top of that, 49% contained verbal aggression. In total, only one scene in 10 didn’t contain any aggression, and the typical scene averaged 12 physical or verbal attacks. One action-packed scene managed to fit in 128.
Unlike violence in regular movies where someone gets punched, gets mad, and fights back, 95% of the victims of aggression in the porn scenes either were neutral or responded with pleasure. And while the targets were women 94% of the time, when a man was the victim, he was four times more likely than his female costars to be upset at his attacker.
In other words, in porn, women are getting beat up and they’re smiling about it.
If you’ve spent any time on this site, you know pornography can change the way the brain is wired, similar to how drugs can. Studies also show watching porn over time leads to seeking out more hardcore pornography. Images or videos that once excited a person often stop having the same effect, and the user has to look at more porn more often, and/or find a more hardcore version—or all three—to get that same initial excitement.
When the thrill fades, viewers often turn to more explicit, shocking material. Porn producers have managed to override our natural instinct to avoid pain by pairing it with sex (something to be naturally desired). This has begun to blur the lines between what appears sexy and what is downright harmful.
Studies are starting to show how pornography is related to violent sexual behavior. Watching even nonviolent pornography is correlated with the viewer being more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to push women into sex. Also, an analysis of 33 different studies found that exposure to both nonviolent and violent porn increases aggressive behavior, including having violent fantasies and even actually committing violent assaults. 
To be clear, this doesn’t mean people who watching porn are going to automatically become rapists or murderers after watching. Even so, we cannot ignore that as research and current events are showing, there is a common behavior among people who commit heinous crimes–they often have an unusually high interest in porn and usually have a long history with it that typically extends back to their childhood. The dehumanization of women in pornography can contribute to a lack of empathy that makes it easier to perpetrate sexual assault or worse if a person is already predisposed to violent behavior.
According to the website Stop Porn Culture, studies show that after men view porn, they are more likely to have decreased empathy for rape victims, believe that a woman who dresses provocatively deserves to be raped, have anger at women who flirt but don’t have sex, and report increased interest in coercing partners into unwanted sex acts. How is this healthy?
Research also shows that porn viewers can have a much higher tendency to objectify those around them. People are people, not parts, and we cannot be okay with anyone being deconstructed and bartered around for points or a few Facebook “likes.”
With the normalization of pain porn and rape fantasy, it’s possible that our generation is being conditioned to mimic what is popular/acceptable online. If there’s anything to be learned from these real life stories, it’s that this probably happens more than we’d like to believe.
But, there’s hope. There are ways to reject the perfectly packaged and normalized porn culture around us and stop the demand for graphic content like live streaming sexual assault. We don’t have to be conditioned in unhealthy ways to believe that violence and porn are just part of our digital world, and we just “have to accept it.” We can actively fight back and raise awareness, and report anything online that seems even slightly questionable. By being informed, taking action, and understanding porn’s harmful effects, we can make a much needed change to our perceptions about what’s healthy and acceptable and what’s not.
What YOU Can Do
Spread the message that we cannot allow sexual violence to continue being normalized. SHARE the facts and take a stand against the sexualization and objectification taking place in our society.