Guest Editorial

By: Jen Lindsey, Southwest Crisis Center Advocate, Luverne

‘A Message To Men’

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; why does your online activity matter?

Pornography is often considered an acceptable personal pleasure that causes no public harm. But if you ask law enforcement, victims’ advocates, health professionals and addiction professionals, they’ll tell you it’s anything but harmless. It’s a public health crisis.

Pornography is referred to as the “gateway drug” of sex trafficking and sexual violence, because it normalizes abuse of women and children by treating them as objects. Many porn sites depict rape and abuse as if it were harmless, often equating pain with pleasure — which increases demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse and child pornography.

Like other harmful addictions, it takes more porn and more deviant behaviors to get the same high, and this leads down a slippery slope of viewing increasingly violent, degrading and unusual material and possibly interacting with someone online or in person and engaging in risky situations.

An estimated 85 percent of men seek porn at least once a month, many daily. In 2016 the leading porn website alone got 23 billion visits. That’s 729 people per second for just one website.

Like other addicts, porn addicts regularly report feeling shame and guilt, uncontrollable anger, diminished ability to focus, and an overall dissatisfaction with real life. And like other addictions, it strains relationships.

Though pornography is often considered “at least not cheating,” research finds that 70 percent of partners of porn viewers experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress after discovering details of their partner’s addiction and betrayal.

And invariably this creates an unstable environment for families and children, not only due to relationship stress, but also the likelihood of children viewing online porn.

Internet pornography has become the No. 1 sex educator for children as young as 8. The disturbing material, which is easily found online, teaches children that it’s normal sexual behavior.

It sends the message that girls, women and children are commodities to be used and that “no” really means “yes” — that they actually enjoy aggressive and violent sex.

Even those children who don’t view porn can suffer from “second-hand” porn because it perpetuates physical and verbal sexual harassment of girls and increases sexualized discourse among children.

A final message to our Rock County residents in sleepy rural landscapes: Sexual exploitation happens everywhere, not just on streets of big cities or with elite escort services.

It can be a “boyfriend” offering up his partner to perform sexual favors with his friends in exchange for something other than money, such as drugs or property. Sexual exploitation is more than prostitution; it can be exotic dancing, stripping and pornography.

There is help for porn and sex addicts, and there is support for their families and communities.

The “Don’t Buy It Project” is a public awareness campaign developed by Men As Peacemakers to prevent sexual exploitation and to educate communities about their role in standing up to it.

The Southwest Crisis Center will host a presentation by Ed Heisler, executive director of Men As Peacemakers, from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Luverne American Legion Post 123. Call the Southwest Crisis Center, 507-283-9917, with questions. (See the related story about the presentation in this Star Herald.)

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