Citizens for Decency

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343 East 4th North 

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Rexburg, ID 83440

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Modern-Day Monsters: Pornography and Sexual Abuse

Updated: Feb 10


When I was a child, I shared my home with a monster. Not the imagined monsters under the bed or in the closet, but a living, breathing threat who like Dracula, often came in the night and siphoned the life out of me. I tried to tell my mother, but I was young and didn’t have the words to describe sexual abuse. Seeking to understand, she asked my abuser about it and things became so much worse for me. I kept silent after that. So, each night, or whenever my mom was away I lived in fear of the hot breath, and the touch of the monster. Now years later, I’m the mom and I still struggle with the scars of my childhood sexual abuse. I want to protect other children from real-life nightmares, and so I call your attention to the common threat that too often leads to child sexual abuse. That risk is pornography.


“PORNOGRAPHICATION” OF POPULAR CULTURE

We live in what Australian researcher, Dr. Michael Flood, calls the “pornographication” of popular culture. Even allowing for various definitions of pornography, the risk of exposure is very high. As parents, we can be very careful, putting filters on all their screens in our homes, only to find out our child saw pornography on a friend’s phone at school or while playing video games at a friend’s house. Even accidental viewing porn can be very shocking or upsetting to children and teens.


As every parent knows, children are natural mimics. They are always observing, and then trying out what they have learned. This is how they learn to speak, walk and get along in their culture. For this reason, parents are generally very careful about the kind of TV or video games their children are exposed to. Unfortunately, children are being exposed to pornography without their parent's knowledge or consent.

Much of what can be found in online pornography is not what would be considered normal in a loving relationship, however, young children and teens don’t always understand this. For example, Dr. Flood reviewed five studies that showed that young men who regularly view porn are more likely to request anal sex from their female partner because this is what they see portrayed pornography videos: this and worse. This is not behavior we want our children to mimic, but some do.

PORNOGRAPHY LEADS TO SEXUAL ABUSE

Just as it was a short distance from my abuser’s bedroom to mine, the path that leads from pornography to sexual violence is often short. Many researchers agree that pornography often leads to sexual violence. One study aimed at the prevention of sexual violence reviewed current research and interviewed fourteen teenage sex offenders. These researchers stated, “Harmful sexual behavior carried out by children and young people accounts for about half of all child sexual abuse.” This means if we only focus on the sex offender in the next block, we might miss warning signs about the male baby sitter or a male cousin. The research reviewed for this study showed a strong link between pornography and sexual aggression in 22 studies completed in seven different countries. With the fourteen teen sex offenders interviewed, researchers found a strong correlation between viewing porn and their sexual offenses. For example, one young man interviewed said, “I didn't really watch [pornography] when my sister was around, usually at that point my head was thinking let's try what I've seen. Then, so as well as the pornography and that sense of power, they just pretty much added together and then caused [my harmful sexual behavior].”


SIBLING SEXUAL ABUSE


Understanding that porn often leads to sexual abuse, and abusers may be children or teens themselves, I have to tell you about one more frightening thing. Researchers believe that sibling sexual abuse is likely the most common form of sexual abuse, and the least reported. Teenagers who sexually offend are likely to choose their first victim from among their siblings, says a study on sibling incest. This same study found that sixty-nine percent of the youth sex offenders had assaulted their siblings.


It is important to note that while it is more common for males to view porn and to sexually offend, females are not immune to both behaviors. Sibling sexual abuse happens with victims of both the opposite sex and the same sex. Youth sex offenders may choose female, male or both genders as victims.


WE CAN WIN THIS FIGHT


I realize what I have just explained to you is the stuff of nightmares, much more so than any childhood fear of Dracula or other monsters. But like the mythological Dracula, these modern monsters can be defeated. Our best defense is prevention.


We teach our children to avoid many other dangers, we can teach them about porn. For children 12 and younger, the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson, MA, and Gail Poyner Ph.D. is available in two formats for different age groups. For teenagers, Fight the New Drug, is great research about how porn is harmful. They include both science and real-life stories. For parents, a wonderful website to educate yourself on protecting your children from sexual abuse is Stop It Now. The monsters we face are dangerous and threatening, but we can win this fight. Our victory begins with educating ourselves.


References:

Flood, M. (2009). The harms of pornography exposure among children and young people. Child Abuse Review, 18(6), 384-400. https://doi.org/10.1002/car.1092

Tidefors, I., Arvidsson, H., Ingevaldson, S., & Larsson, M. (2010). Sibling incest: A literature review and a clinical study. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 16(3), 347-360. DOI:10.1080/13552600903511667

Fight the New Drug https://fightthenewdrug.org

Stop It Now https://www.stopitnow.org