Let me tell you a story…
I finished my seminar at a summer conference and, as the majority of delegates filed out, I turned my attention to the few folk hovering around to ask questions, share a story or seek prayer. There was a girl in her mid-twenties wearing the primary coloured t-shirt/uniform of the conference youth team and she was crying. A lot. She took a slow and deep breath and then told me something she had never told anyone in her life before. She had become dependent on using pornography to get through the day. As we chatted, I saw how this beautiful young woman was crippled by shame and self-loathing, and questioned if anyone, including her heavenly Father, would ever truly accept her. Sadly, this wasn’t the first or last time I have had a conversation like this.
Three of us sat in our meeting room and agreed that something had to happen, even if we started small. In the last 30 minutes the woman that my colleague and I were meeting that day had told us how she had discovered her husband’s compulsive porn use. She shared how the pain and trauma of that discovery felt like he’d had an affair, how their church leader had told her to support him and keep it confidential, how she had felt betrayed, isolated and confused. She hardly paused, or took a beat, as she went on to share the practical ways God had brought hope and healing to their marriage, and the growing passion she had to bring that help to other wives and partners.
One final story…
The new supporter listened as I began to talk about the workshops we deliver to offer parental guidance on xxx content, before she stopped me in my tracks. “Last week,” she whispered, initially not meeting my eye, “I found out my 10 year-old son has been watching porn on his phone. I’m heartbroken.”
Not just a men’s issue
As you read these stories you may begin to understand why Naked Truth, the project I lead, is utterly convinced that pornography is not solely a “men’s issue.” Without question, many women are living with the deeply damaging impact of pornography use. How many, is difficult to say; particularly with an issue shrouded in secrecy and shame. Statistics can give us an indication though. Last year, Net Ratings revealed that nearly one in three visitors to adult entertainment websites are female. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a group of over 1,500 lawyers, reported that 56% of their divorce cases involve one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites. Last year, in one survey of 1,000 teenagers, 96% said they had viewed porn. In Northern Ireland, 29% of 15-year-old boys (that’s 5,000 boys) said they accessed porn everyday.
The new landscape
Statistics and stories like these exist due to how easily available pornography has become in the last ten years. Broadband internet, followed swiftly by smartphone technology, have changed the landscape of pornography consumption. In 2007, Steve Jobs stood on a stage and launched the first iPhone, taking the Internet from our desktops to our pockets and purses. Of course, the Internet is an incredible source of education and entertainment but we must not ignore that it has also been a powerful tool for the producers of pornography. For example, just one pornography website boasted 28 billion views in 12 months. Porn distribution has shifted from the sex shop to the smart phone and billions of people are discovering that porn is more accessible, anonymous and affordable than ever before.
This new landscape means that every single day, women are experiencing the damaging impact of pornography use whether as parents, partners, porn users or performers.
Hope and help
In 2013, I founded Naked Truth, a project that aims to open eyes and free lives from the damaging impact of pornography. The “Open Eyes” part of our work includes providing awareness and education programmes in schools and churches. Over the years, we have partnered with various agencies in Northern Ireland such as The Big House, Love for Life, Urban Saints, Care NI and Evangelical Alliance to deliver training, workshops and conferences to help leaders and parents think, talk and tackle this issue in their churches and homes.
The “Free Lives” part of our work provides recovery and support to women and men who, like the girl in my first story, feel trapped in a cycle of compulsive porn use. For example, our “Click to Kick” groups offer confidential online support where individuals with decades of porn use are finding life changing freedom. Naked Truth also publishes books to provide practical support. One of our books, Dangerous Honesty by Karin Cooke, shares the raw and real stories of Christian women who have found Jesus’ healing from the devastation left by porn use. It’s our prayer that, if you are reading this needing support, you take that first step and ask for it, because there really is hope and help.
After that meeting about helping partners, we set up an online, peer-led community called XXXposed Hearts. The stories coming from the 80 women currently in that group have been equally moving and encouraging. Here are some of the recent comments:
“Knowing I am not alone has been so healing.”
“Joining this group and sharing with you all has given me so much power and confidence back.”
“Finding you guys means waking up today was less lonely.”
“I love the fact that others in this group have experienced the same as me, and some are further along that path. Two years ago I thought I was the only person who was experiencing this pain.”
You can find more information about XXXposed Hearts on the Naked Truth website.
Pornography must not continue as a taboo issue in our congregations. As churches we need to get informed, get involved and get help. Please pray for us as we seek to equip the local church to open eyes and free lives.
For information on the work of Naked Truth visit www.nakedtruthproject.com
For information on the P Word Conference visit www.pwordconference.com
To sign up for our Click to Kick support groups visit www.clicktokick.com
By Ian Henderson, Ian is the founder of Naked Truth and Visible Ministries. He is based in Manchester and is married with two daughters. You can find Ian on Twitter as @hende
– Originally printed in Wider World, Autumn 2017