DistressDid you know that children are sexually victimized at a much higher rate than adults? Virtually everyone can agree that adult rape is a horrible crime. But the Children’s Assessment Center website reports that nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under.

And this study was done back in 2000, so I’m pretty sure with all the proliferation of child pornography, that number is even worse today.

Pornography is so intertwined with sexual molestation that parents need to know how all of this works together. Let’s look at four ways that showing pornography to kids can weaken their ability to avoid, resist and escape sexual victimization.

According to Diana E.H. Russell in her Big Porn, Inc chapter entitled Harming Children, porn can arouse, legitimize, desensitize and silence children who are being molested.

Young boy using laptopSeeing pornography arouses children’s sexual curiosity, especially in boys. And perpetrators often show pornographic pictures to begin grooming them for sexual subjugation. “Pedophiles posing as young teenagers in Internet teen chat groups often send pornographic pictures or email messages…in order to arouse their curiosity and to manipulate them into meeting in person.”

Showing pornography to kids serves to legitimize or normalize child sexual abuse in the eyes of victims.  The abuser uses porn to persuade them that they would enjoy certain sexual acts and that it’s normal or alright to do. Sending child pornography to targeted children is a ploy to convince kids that other children are sexually active, too. No big deal, right? Wrong!

Showing pornography to children desensitizes or “disinhibits” them. A child molester grooms an intended target by first befriending them, then touching him or her and then introducing the child to X-rated videos until the child can sit through them. Once the child is comfortable watching pornography, it’s much easier to get them to do the sexual acts depicted in pornography.

Sombre futureKids naturally feel guilty and ashamed for looking at pornography, and pedophiles use this to their advantage. According to Russell, “Child molesters can often silence their victims by telling them that their parents would be very upset to learn that they had watched pornography.” And kids who are molested following the exposure to porn may feel complicit in the abuse. Just another reason for them to remain silent, keeping their shame buried inside.

So how do parents use this information to help their kids?

  • First, kids need to be educated and given a basic definition of pornography so they know how to label it when they are shown it or stumble upon it.
  • Next they need to be taught that if they are shown pornography, they won’t get in trouble for telling you about it. It’s not their fault and they are not to blame. But mom or dad needs to know.
  • Third, if you find out that a friend or family member has shown pornography to your child, cut off all access to that person and get professional counseling immediately. In my county, we have a Support, Advocacy and Resource Center  where victims can turn for help in cases of sexual assault or exposure to pornography. In other areas, search for “Sexual Assault Resource Center.”

mom talking with daughter in parkSexual abuse of minors is far too common, and has long-term negative effects on children. Help your kids stay safe by teaching them about pornography and encouraging them to tell you if they are ever shown it by anyone.

Have your kids ever told you that someone showed them pornography? How did you respond? Please leave a comment! We can all learn so much from each other.

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
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