Communities, churches urged to address sexual exploitation

October 25, 2016

Haley Halverson, director of communications at the National Center on Exploitation, speaks on the link between pornography and sexual violence at the 2016 Sexual Exploitation Summit in Houston Sept. 30. Halverson joined a panel that discussed the public health impacts of pornography with Noah Church, Gabe Deem and Gary Wilson. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

HOUSTON — Communities must do more to address the effects of pornography by first acknowledging there is a problem, according to a presenter at the recent summit hosted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Additional resources and education are also needed to help those affected by pornography, including those in Catholic church communities.

In his presentation about the role of the Church in curbing sexual exploitation, Josh McDowell of the Plano based McDowell Ministries said pornography in all its forms, including the growing virtual porn business, is a scourge not only in the broader society but in church communities, leading to addiction and the breakdown of families and society. 

Citing studies conducted by his organization, McDowell said there is a wide discrepancy between the number of Christian men who say they view pornography — a lot, and the number of leaders who acknowledge there’s a problem — not many. For instance, he said a majority of young Christian men admit to actively seeking pornography online and many admit they can’t stop, yet only seven percent of churches offer resources to help those addicted to porn.

To address the problem, McDowell said churches must develop a workable plan to provide education and support. He said the plan should encompass adequate training for leaders and staff of churches and church schools, a meaningful curriculum, information on Websites, books and materials, broader marriage training programs and information about counseling services. McDowell also urged churches to spend more of their resources on youth programs. 

Patrick Trueman, president and chief executive officer of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation pointed to the growing acceptance among families of television shows filled with sexual innuendo, imagery or porn, such as “Game of Thrones,” and to the parents who provide their children at increasingly younger ages with cell phones that are unblocked as gateways to porn and a sexually exploitative society. He said the rape culture on college campuses is a perpetuation of that. 

Trueman said parishes should implement the recommendations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in combating pornography and its consequences. He said education needs to start early in schools and parish youth programs and continue through a marriage preparation program that includes information about the dangers of pornography. He said parishes require training to help those parishioners who confess to a porn addiction and guide them to get the help they need. In addition, he said spouses of porn addicts also need help and support.

Deacon Arturo Monterrubio, director of the Archdiocese of Galveston Houston’s Family Life Ministry, hopes to help change that state of affairs.
He is looking into ways for parishes deal with pornography and its side effects, such as domestic abuse.

“We are called to shed light on these situations,” he said. “Just to be aware is not good enough. We need to be prepared to help and provide information for help, to provide legal support and medical support.” 

In Brief
More than 400 people from some 200 groups from across the U.S. and seven countries attended the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s third annual summit, held in Houston Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. 

The summit covered a range of issues that highlighted the link between pornography and sexual exploitation, including porn addiction, sex trafficking, prostitution and violence against women. Topics, presented by a host of experts, included the latest research on the harms of pornography to the brain; the role of technology; the fight against sexual oriented businesses: building healthy relationship; and preventing sexual violence and human trafficking.

Launched as an interfaith effort to counter pornography in New York City five decades ago, the nonprofit, formerly known as Morality in Media, works to change sexually exploitative policies, to educate and empower the public and to lead the larger movement for freedom from sexual exploitation, objectification and violence. 

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