What can be done about the current climate where sexual exploitation is seemingly everywhere? Are there organized efforts that call for change? How can we be empowered to advocate for ending sexual exploitation in our communities?
Dawn Hawkins is the Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a leading national organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health crisis of pornography. She explains,
“One of the weaknesses in the fight against any one area of sexual exploitation is that we often silo these issues.But in reality, they are all interconnected. It’s so important that we look at how pornography is connected to violence against women or how pornography is driving demand for sex trafficking and prostitution, or how pornography even is connected to child sexual abuse and child pornography. There is so much intersectionality, and we do a disservice when we try to silo them out.”
Sexual Exploitation Is Everywhere
Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery states,
“Many people, when they hear about sex trafficking and exploitation and pornography, they get kind of depressed because it’s so uncomfortable and can seem hopeless.”
Dawn explains how she sees these issues and how people can help,
“It is important to remember that anyone anywhere can challenge and oppose sexual exploitation whenever and wherever they see it. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, focuses on changing policies that we see as facilitating sexual exploitation. Sometimes those polices are government related, but often our work is focused on corporate policies. Just add a little bit of hope– we get real results and we’ve had huge victories. We got Google, for example, to kick all sexually explicit apps out of Google Play and to stop all explicit and pornographic advertisements. We got 5 major hotels to stop selling pornography. Essentially that is 2 million hotel rooms around the world that don’t have pornography through the on-demand system.”
Sexual Exploitation Can Be Stopped
Anne sees these advocacy efforts producing change as empowering,
“There are thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, across the globe, who are working toward a pornography and exploitation free world.”
Check out the amazing efforts of NCOSE today and lend your help to this organization. You can even lend a hand to advocate from your own home, by writing emails, signing petitions, and sharing the calls to action on social media.
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Until next week, stay safe out there.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I have my friend Dawn Hawkins on today’s episode. She is the executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. I have invited her here to talk about how NCOSE, or the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, helps keep women safe, in a variety of different ways, from exploitation. Welcome Dawn.
Dawn: Thank you, Anne, I’m so happy to be here. We love your podcast.
Anne: So, I wanted you, Dawn, to talk about how my listeners, who are extremely interested in stopping the harms of pornography and exploitation, how they can get involved in the fight. What do you need our listeners to do?
What Is Sexual Exploitation?
Dawn: I have a long list of things that people can do to really help in this fight but let me start by saying I think one of the weaknesses in the fight against any one area of sexual exploitation is that often we silo these issues. Really, they’re all interconnected. It’s so important that we look at how pornography is connected to violence against women or how pornography is driving demand for sex trafficking and prostitution. Or how pornography even is connected to child sexual abuse and child pornography.
There is so much intersectionality, and I think we do a disservice when we try to silo them out. Really, if you’re listeners could take away from this the need to talk about these issues as connected, it will help grow the entire movement and I think it will foster more holistic solutions.
Anne: I could not agree more. In fact, one woman who I recently met, she’s considering whether or not she should continue to date someone, and I know about his history of porn use. She texted me and she said: Do you know what type of porn he used? Was it just with women or did he see porn with children? I thought: If she really understood this issue she wouldn’t be asking this question, right. It doesn’t matter what type of porn someone uses, it’s going to be bad regardless. To the person it might matter but in the big grand scheme of things it’s all interconnected and it’s basically all part of the same thing.
Sexual Exploitation Can Destroy Lives
Dawn: Yeah, most definitely. I would agree with that. Building on that example, this is really sad, a young woman that I know very, very well since she was like a pre-teen, just reached out to me to explain to me her relationship is getting really serious. She’s now in her early 20’s and she thinks it’s moving towards marriage but he’s addicted to pornography. He disclosed that to her and he disclosed that he has purchased women for sex before and she’s kind of like: He promises he’s better now, but now what do I do? There’s a whole host of things. First of all, she said: He said he’s only been “free” from pornography for 3 months. So, it’s not like he’s made a clear recovery.
But also, just that connection to pornography and sex buying and as we know it often then equates to also having affairs and all of these other types of things later on.
Anne: What she needs to understand, and what every woman needs to understand, is that any man who participates in pornography, when they’re participating in pornography, they’re participating in abusive behaviors. Every time you click it’s abusive. It’s not just abusive to the women in the porn, although it is, it’s also abusive to the person that you’re dating or the people around you.
Sexual Exploitation Is Abusive
It’s actually an abuse issue. I think that’s really important. She has someone who basically has told her: Well, I use to be abusive but I’m not anymore. She needs to learn about what those abusive behaviors look like to know has he really changed or not. We have so many blogs and podcasts about that, that she can come here and find out how to know if my boyfriend is changing or how to know if he really is not using anymore.
So, our listeners know that they need to set boundaries in their own homes. What can they do on a community level to help protect all women or all of society from the harms of pornography?
Dawn: One is to challenge and oppose sexual exploitation whenever and wherever you see it, and that might be nerve-racking. Like, you’re at the grocery store and you see a sexually explicit magazine or you’re at Starbucks and somebody’s watching pornography on their computer right there in front of everybody. Those kinds of things. Whenever you see sexual exploitation, pointing that out and raising your voice. It might be terrifying at the moment, but it is so incredibly empowering to know that you have a voice and to know that it’s being herd.
Also, I really want to share that when other people hear, they might be embarrassed or shy to speak up themselves, but they tend to flock in support to help. So, you certainly wouldn’t be alone, and others then find the strength to speak up as well. I think that’s a really important thing to do in your local community. There is a host of things our organization, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, focuses on changing policies that we see as facilitating sexual exploitation. Sometimes those polices are government related, but often our work is focused on corporate policies.
What Can Be Done About Sexual Exploitation?
We could use so much help from the public. We need activists signing petitions and sending emails to executives. Just a few examples are Netflix. Netflix argues that they’re appropriate for ages 4+, but as probably most of your listeners know, they’ve got really problematic content often paired right next to cartoons that they’re recommending. This content often has graphic depictions of sexual violence. They have originally produced shows that normalize sex trafficking of minors or domestic violence and all of these kinds of things.
We’ve got Instagram, for example, where so many of our young people are spending a majority of their time, and that platform is rife with grooming, with bullying, with pornography, with prostitution, with sex trafficking. Perhaps your listeners could join some of these advocacy campaigns that we’ve got going, targeting these big corporations and calling on them to make changes.
And to just add a little bit of hope, when we get real, real results, we’ve had huge victories. We got Google, for example, to kick all sexually explicit apps out of Google Play and to stop all explicit and pornographic advertisements. We got 5 major hotels to stop selling pornography. The most exciting thing I think with that hotel win was Hilton Hotels, the executives called us, and they said: Can you please stop your campaign? We’re getting 1000 emails a week from people who are so upset that we’re selling pornography.
Is Pornography Sexual Exploitation?
We said: Well, we’ll stop it if you meet with us and hear us out, and they did meet with us, and after that meeting, they immediately changed their policies and then 3 other major hotel chains changed their policies too. That’s 2 million hotel rooms around the world that don’t have pornography through the on-demand system.
So, I say that to say: Your voice matters, and you can join these campaigns that we’ve got coming out every week, to help create a safer society.
Anne: So, how does someone get involved with these campaigns? Do they go to your website? Do they get on your email list? Tell us the process so that they can start taking part in those initiatives.
Dawn: If you sign up on our email list that’s the best. We send 1 or 2 emails a week and most of the time they’re heavy calls to action and ways that you can get involved locally and on a national and world-wide level. Our website is endsexualexploitation.org, so you can join there. Of course, we’re on all the social media channels and we try hard to push out the action alert through those as well.
Sexual Exploitation Can Erode Society
Anne, I think you’re going to like this campaign that’s launching about right now. We’ve got an effort called Fix App Ratings, where we’re calling on the creation of an independent app review board, much like we have for video games or the film and television movement where everything gets rated so that parents can make an informed decision about what kind of content their kids are watching. Right now, apps all self-rate themselves. Instagram said that they’re appropriate for age 12+. Snapchat said that they’re appropriate for age 12+, and yet there is so much grooming. There is so much bullying. There is so much pornography. There is so much prostitution and sex trafficking happening on those platforms.
I found a VPN, a virtual private network, created by PornHub, no other than PornHub, that’s rated E for everyone on the app stores. You know what that virtual private network is being used for. All of the reviews and comments on it are talking about how great it is to watch hardcore pornography, and yet they’re saying that that’s appropriate for everyone. I invite your listeners to join that Fix App Ratings project. There are dozens of organizations behind it and I really think it’s going to win.
Anne: Yeah, that’s one thing I love about you Dawn and your work, is that you get results, and it’s so hopeful and so exciting. So many people, when they hear about sex trafficking and exploitation and pornography, they get kind of depressed because it’s so uncomfortable but with an organization like yours you can get involved in a way that brings results, and that’s exciting. Having action steps for people to take is so helpful.
Is There Advocacy To End Sexual Exploitation?
Dawn: Anne, let me tell you, I think two little anecdotal stories that give me lots of hope and excitement. There’s one woman that reached out to us and she was upset because she’s struggling with infertility issues and she went to the doctor’s office with her husband to discuss what her options were. Her husband went to the restroom and when he came out he told her that there are tons of pornography magazines in the bathroom. I want to point out that there is only one bathroom for everyone; male, female, and children all use the same bathroom. They just had these porn magazines stacked in there. They argue that men have to watch porn in order to ejaculate. So, she was upset, and she said something to the nurse who kind of looked at her like what’s the big deal, they need this, and said she would pass on her issues.
So, she contacted us, and she was like: I don’t know what to do. This is so wrong. Here we are trying to build a family and yet it feels like there is all this stuff that destroys our family right there in the other room. I suggested that she write a letter to the practice, which she did, and she followed it up with a call. They decided to get rid of the pornography. It was just with her voice. I think that’s so encouraging.
Another woman called us frantic because her little 6-year-old daughter is obsessed with American Girl dolls, which so many parents understand, and she wanted to play a game on the computer. So, she sat on her mom’s lap and together they typed in American Girl Doll games into Google, and unfortunately up popped horrible pornography. Teen themed pornography that unfortunately, the 6-year-old daughter saw. A horrific thing, but this mom, after she told us the story reached out to American Girl Dolls and made sure that they knew what was coming up when people typed their name into Google. They were able to fix it and improve their search engine optimization and create a whole bunch of other stuff to push all of that pornography down to like the 4th page in Google. Again, there is just this really encouraging story of a mom raising their voice and seeing results.
Sexual Exploitation Can Be Addressed By Anyone
Anne: Because women have been so dismissed and abused when it comes to this, like: Oh, why are you making such a big deal out of pornography, their husband might say, or society might say that, when inside they want to reject it. It’s really good to know that they’re part of a big giant team that’s working together to stop this, rather than thinking that they’re alone. When you’re alone and isolated in a situation, as my listeners are, where their husband is using pornography either behind their back and lying to their face or trying to say: It’s not a big deal, why are you making such a big deal out of it? You can feel really alone and so that’s another reason why I wanted you to come on, to let women know it’s not just you. There’s thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, across the globe, who are working toward a pornography and exploitation free world.
Dawn: Most definitely. I’m getting chills because that’s how I feel too. I would say for those who feel alone, it’s so wonderful that they found your network. There’s the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation, which our organization directs. It has more than 300 organization members and we get together regularly. There is a Summit each year, for example. You’re coming right, Anne?
Anne: Yes, I’ll be there.
Dawn: It’s all these people that come together and it’s for a few days. We just get empowered and encouraged and we learn the research and we get strategies and then it helps to buoy us up as we go throughout the rest of the year where we often are alone. We’re fighting our fight where it seems like we might be the only ones and so there is a community here that’s really opposed to sexual exploitation and pornography it all of its forms.
We’re having so many wins and with more willing to come on board and add their voice or even silently support from the sideline, it will help tremendously.
Sexual Exploitation Damages People
Anne: Uh huh, and I think when women are abused in their own homes or abandoned by a pornography user who refuses to recover or stop their abusive behaviors, that is so discouraging because you think: Man, I can go out and help the National Center on Sexual Exploitation with these initiatives which is exciting, but in my own home it destroyed my own personal family. That’s where it gets really sad and that’s why we are here at BTR to help support women in a very personal way with a very personal situation.
That’s what it’s all about. What you are doing, really, it’s all about making individuals healthy, happy, and safe. It really comes down to how pornography is affecting individuals and individual families.
Dawn: I most definitely would agree.
Anne: So, Dawn, I’m sure now after listening to you and after listening to these success stories our listeners want to get involved so I want you to repeat one more time your website and how they can join your email list.
How Can We End Sexual Exploitation?
Dawn: Go to endsexualexploitation.org. You can join our email list. You can see a whole bunch of action alerts and projects going on. Find one that sparks your interest. I invite you to attend this Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit, with Anne, this June. There is information on our website about that as well, and to just speak up whenever and wherever you see sexual exploitation happening.
Anne: Awesome. You’re amazing Dawn. I’m so excited to see you at the Summit, and we’ll have her on again to talk about some of these specific issues that she is an expert at to help educate all of us so that we can speak up.
Again, the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit will be June 12-15th, 2019. I will be speaking about why pornography use is abusive to your spouse. So, if you live on the East Coast and you can drive up we would love to see you there. I would love to meet you in person.
Sexual Exploitation Is Dangerous To Everyone
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