London gangs are creating ‘sket lists’ of teenage girls who are seen as legitimate targets of sexual violence in order to mete out punishments to other male gang members, stoke rivalries between gangs, and spread fear.
The Observer has reported that both police and charities have recorded an increase in sexual violence perpetrated by gangs, while those placed on ‘sket lists’ (a slang word for ‘slut’) have experienced attacks so violence that girls have been dragged from school buses and sexually assaulted.
Sket lists can include sisters, cousins and girlfriends of rival gang members as targets for sexual assault, which is seen as revenge rape. The lists are circulated through BlackBerry Messenger and mean the girls become active targets wherever they are, such as walking home from school.
Clare Hubberstey, interim chief executive of the Safer London Foundation, told the Observer that gangs are using sexual violence in the same way that they use dangerous dogs to parade their masculinity.
She said that gang members know the consequences of being caught carrying a weapon, and are using the low rape conviction rate as a low-risk means of spreading fear and control.
“Criminals are clever, they know if they are caught carrying weapons they face a lengthy sentence; it’s risky carrying a gun. The use of sexual violence is the same sort of thing as having a dangerous dog; it creates fear, it’s non-traceable, and they are also taking advantage of low rape conviction rates even when there are witnesses,” she said.
Often girls who are placed on sket lists are those who were secretly filmed by a gang engaging in a sexual act, and who is then threatened with the footage appearing on social media if the girl does not agree to further sexual activity. Ms Hubberstey said this method of blackmail is fairly common.
Scotland Yard said that sexual violence against women by gangs is now the top of its agenda. It said it has led initiatives that have seen gun crime fall by 17% and knife crime offences by 11.5%, and that sexual violence by gangs against women is the next priority.
Detective Superintendent Tim Champion said of the Metropolitan police’s Operation Trident gang crime command that: “The first thing we do is stop people killing each other. The focus now is clearly on women. It’s as prevalent as carrying a knife of a gun – raping a girl in a gang.”
The Safer London Foundation said more than 500 young women were victims of gang-related sexual violence in the past year, while the Metropolitan police said it is currently mapping the problem in order to find “hotspots” of abuse.