Research (background reading) for the question Are rape vans real? is unpleasant.

I found evidence for an answer in the affirmative: Snopes and Wikipedia identifying (and/or narrating) a criminal case involving rape, torture, and murder.

Is this a topic people want on the Skeptics site? On the StackExchange network?

For example this meta-answer about 'rape' says,

The rest is actually tolerated (of course, if it's not brutally gratuitous!)

Two questions:

  • Does that mean "brutally gratuitous" isn't tolerated? Is this topic "brutally gratuitous" and therefore intolerable? Although free speech is protected in national law, can I flag this topic as offensive,

    This question contains content that a reasonable person would deem inappropriate for respectful discourse?

  • Or, if I shouldn't flag this topic for moderator attention, am I allowed to vote to close it just because I don't like it? For example I could invent a close reason like the following to claim that,

    This question is off-topic because it is indecent and offensive.

    That I could simply vote, and the question would be closed if enough other people in the "community" agreed.

4 Answers 4


The question should stand. Its in scope and I can't support censorship just because a topic is potentially upsetting.

See also the english.se policy on questions about profanity.


As the OP, I'll add my two cents.

Sexual abuse is an unpleasant subject. It isn't the only unpleasant subject dealt with. For example, the holocaust has been the subject of some questions.

If you strongly wish to avoid questions about sexual abuse, one partial solution would be to ignore the tag. For more info on ignoring a tag, see What do "favorite tags" and "ignored tags" do? .

If you feel that the question is unimportant, or was asked in bad faith (trolling), then I'd be willing to rethink the question.

  • I've no reason to say it was trolling. I cannot reasonably guess what your motive is (and I don't foresee how that could make a difference anyway, to the content of the topic). I was wondering about condemning it as "not a book I'd like to open" in the same way that horror movies are "classified" (aka "restricted"). FYI I don't use tags, I've been using the 'active' view to see all new topics.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 12:15
  • 1
    @ChrisW I am 99% sure that your preferences will exclude questions with tags you've blocked from any view. This is probably a valid option for you. Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 14:10
  • @WilliamGrobman Having set sexual-abuse as an "ignored" tag, I now find that topic is still visible/listed in the active view but it is now noticeably different i.e. it has a less-dark font color (there's a tagged-ignored CSS style which sets opacity: 0.35), so I need not click on it accidentally. Thank you.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 14:19
  • 1
    @ChrisW - Under preferences there is the option to grey out or hide ignored tags. Perhaps you chose the former.
    – Jamiec Mod
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 14:45
  • @Jamiec You are right, now that I changed that under Preferences the topic has disappeared completely. "Gray out" was the default setting.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 14:54

Apparently moderators don't object to the topic, so there's no use in flagging it.

It's probably better to avoid closing topics for reasons that are idiosyncratic, especially without moderator support, because at best (which isn't good) that could lead to a close/reopen 'war' between voters.

Using the "Ignored Tags" feature (available via the "Favorite Tags edit" link on the right margin on the Questions page) is sufficient to avoid your reading this category of topics accidentally in future.


Cribbing together some previous answers:

This FAQ answer says that, to date, no taboos have been found: What topics are in and out of scope of Skeptics.SE?

There has been some discussion about whether some topics should be "taboo" as the claims may be considered offensive. To date, no topics have been rejected for such a reason. (e.g. race, pornography, religion.)

However, it acknowledges that this is subject to community consensus:

This is not an attempt to enforce personal preferences or to stifle new directions, but merely to record what consensus has been reached in the past, and which may change in the future.

This answer reflects that further.

The question should be phrased using respectful language but I think the question here isn't offensive. The nature of the claim is. If the title of the claim had used racist epithets, it would certainly be something to edit.

We also have at least one precedent of hiding NSFW images behind links.

We have had questions about rape before. Here is one that I had the distasteful job of researching an answer for. (I can't complain. It was my question, and I did the research after it sat unanswered for 15 months.) While it remains the question that was least pleasant to research an answer to, I would defend the use of research as a method to better understand the behaviour of rapists, and hopefully better reduce its incidence.

So, my position is that I don't think this (admittedly unpleasant) topic of rape is a taboo here, but I remain open to community pushback against such topics.

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