Betrayal
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PornHub Is Simply Abuse Videos

by | Abuse Literacy

PORNHUB IS SIMPLY ABUSE VIDEOS

Trigger warning: pornography, sexual violence.

When Laila Mickelwait, founder and CEO of the Justice Defense Fund, began questioning the legality of PornHub’s content, she quickly learned that when it comes right down to it, PornHub is simply abuse videos.

At BTR, we take the firm stance that pornography is abusive to everyone involved. PornHub is a gateway, catalyst, and enabler to some of the most graphic, insidious, and violent sexual abuse on the internet.

Read the full transcript below and listen to the BTR podcast for more.

What Is “PornHub”?

“As of December, PornHub was the largest and most popular porn site in the world. In 2020 they reported 47 billion visits to the site. That’s 130 million visits per day. In 2019, they had 6.8 million videos uploaded to that one site. It would take you 169 years to watch the content uploaded to PornHub in one year.”

Laila Mickelwait, Founder and CEO of the Justice Defense Fund and founder of the Global Trafficking Hub Movements

Here’s How PornHub Harms Women

Laila Mickelwait woke up late one night with her baby, and couldn’t stop wondering how so many despicable videos could be on PornHub. Videos that include:

  • Rape
  • Violence
  • Coercion
  • Underage vicims
  • Unconscious victims

She quickly learned that all someone needs to upload a video onto PornHub is an email address.

PornHub harms victims every single day by enabling abusers to post filmed abuse.

You Can Help Make Change

Stopping the porn industry in its tracks may feel daunting, but changes are happening.

You can help today. Sign the petition here and let your voice be heard.

PornHub has ruined too many lives – it’s time to hold this industry accountable.

Full Transcript:

Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

Our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, called BTRG for short, is a daily online support group.

We’d love to see you in a session today.

For everyone who has given this podcast, a five-star rating and perhaps even a review on Apple podcasts or other podcasting apps, thank you so much. If this podcast has helped you, when you rate it, you help other women find it. So, your ratings make a big difference.

Laila Mickelwait is the founder and CEO of the Justice Defense Fund and the founder of the global trafficking hub movements supported by millions around the world. She has been combating the injustice of sex trafficking for over a decade and is a leading expert in the field. Welcome, Laila.

Laila: Thanks for having me.

“Pornography Intersects With Sex Trafficking”

Anne: Our audience is well aware of the harms of pornography on families and also how pornography intersects with sex trafficking. Let’s talk about the work that you are doing to bring justice to survivors of sex trafficking and child sex abuse. What got you started in this field?

Laila: You know I’ve been doing this work for over 15 years. I don’t have a very dramatic story of how I ended up focusing on this area. I grew up in a home where my father was very focused on human rights issues. He grew up in the Middle East in the midst of war and he just always instilled in us this sense of awareness about human rights issues and justice issues throughout the course of our lives, and I came back around to that when I was trying to decide what direction I wanted to pursue on my studies and my career path. I really realized that I wanted to invest myself into something that would focus on alleviating human rights abuses and came across the issue of sex trafficking around that time, as many people were stricken by the severity of the harm, especially with regard to women and children. So, that’s how I ended up focusing down that path.

What Is PornHub?

As time went on, one thing I realized was that sex trafficking and these abuses were not only going on in brothels in the United States streets and back alleys and prostitution and brothels in Cambodia but also online through the big porn industry. I came to realize that there is a big porn industry just as there is a big tech industry and a big tobacco industry. I began to investigate and research over the last nine years, the intersection between sex trafficking, Child Sexual Abuse material, all forms of image debased sexual abuse, and the big porn industry, but also really spent a significant amount of time looking into the harm that it does to children as they’re exposed to these kinds of sites, you know, at very young ages these days. As of December, Pornhub was the largest and most popular porn site in the world. In 2020 they reported 47 billion visits to the site, that your 130 million visits per day. In 2019 they had 6.8 million videos uploaded to that one site. It would take you 169 years to watch the content uploaded to Pornhub in just one year.

Just Because It’s On PornHub Does NOT Mean It’s Legal

I was investigating that site because I was questioning why there were so many videos, these homemade videos of women that appeared to be being raped and appeared to be in pain and protesting and not consenting to what was going on, and also homemade videos of girls that appeared to be underage teens and tweens, and I began to question how are they vetting these videos and why is everybody in the world just assuming that because it’s on Pornhub it’s legal?

One night I was awakened by my baby, and as I was putting him back to bed, I was kind of pondering these questions that were haunting me, and I had an idea. I said I’m going to try this test upload for myself. And so, I took out my laptop and I tried the upload process and I found out what millions of people would have already known, but nobody sounded the alarm about before, that all it takes to upload content onto the world’s most popular porn site was an email address. No ID to prove that you’re of age, no consent form to show that you’re not being raped or trafficked, and that was kind of the moment where everything kind of came to a head, and where the trafficking hub movement began.

“At BTR, We Consider All Pornography Abusive”

Anne: At Betrayal Trauma Recovery we consider all pornography abusive. So, for example, if someone says well, Anne, a 12-year-old boy who views pornography is not an abuser. I would say yeah, you’re right but you know what has happened to him, he has been abused by the pornography. So, when he viewed the pornography, the pornography abused him. It’s always an abuse issue in one form or another. And the fact that on Pornhub, people are uploading child sexual abuse material and people are profiting from this is just absolutely atrocious. So, you use the term child sexual abuse material, which more and more people who are fighting pornography are using. Why has that been an important evolution to that term, child sexual abuse material, and away from child pornography?

Laila: Yeah, the way that we talk about things really matters, and one of the things that have been brought to the surface with regard to this issue is just what you’re saying, this issue of abuse, and understanding it as abuse and talking about it in terms of abuse of children instead of pornography. So, when I think of pornography we think of an industry, we think of LA or a studio, we think of entertainment, we think of issues often that are brought up with that of free speech and all these kinds of things that people talk about when they talk about pornography. Something that is used for pleasure.

Understanding The Term “Child Sex Abuse Material”

So connecting a child to that really does not do justice to the harm that that act has had on that child. And being able to instead to call it, the child sexual abuse material I think really describes what’s going on in a way that is so much fairer to the experience of victims and doesn’t minimize or legitimize in any way, what they went through because children can’t consent to any of this, no matter what. And so, calling it pornography, although it is the legal term still like, you know, if you read the law, it still is called child pornography, but more and more, like you said advocates are starting to reframe that for people to have a better understanding what’s going on by calling it child sexual abuse material.

 And I agree with you, with regard to the consumption when children are viewing this content. I often call it a form of secondhand sexual abuse for a child to be exposed or even to willingly seek out that content. A curious, you know, 10-11 year old who heard the word porn at school goes home and searches Google for the word porn and ends up on Pornhub where there are so many thumbnails just on the homepage where they autoplay. You don’t even have to click play in any cases on the home pages of these sites.

Protect Children From Pornography

A recent study done in England, it was a peer-reviewed research study, and I can find the source for you of that, they found that a significant number of videos on the home pages of these porn tube sites like Pornhub and XVideos, we’re representing non-consensual sexual activity or criminal sexual activity or actual criminal and non-consensual sexual activity. So, this is a real form of abuse of children when they are accessing this. And they are accessing this, and they are being exposed to it at alarming rates, and it’s really doing damage to them so I’m a big advocate for protecting children from this kind of content.

Anne: I’m willing to say it’s not even secondhand. That it’s just simply sexual abuse. That these children are being sexually abused when they view pornography.

I was talking to a friend, and she said she overheard someone giving this speech and they were like, when a child comes to you and they say you looked at porn, you just need to say two words, and everything will be good. You look at them and you very tenderly say, it’s okay, and then that solves some problem.

Children Exposed To Porn Are Victims

She and I were like, no! No, that’s not what you say when a kid comes to you and looks at porn. You don’t say it’s okay, you say, I’m so sorry. That should never have happened to you. That is a form of sexual abuse and I know you probably had some feelings going on because you’ve got a body and so you’re half curious half traumatized. You talk about that stuff, but you should never say to a kid when they see porn, it’s okay or like, it’s okay so many people have viewed it or that’s happened to everyone. You should not say that. You should say, I am so sorry, that should never have happened to you.

Laila: Yeah. Yes, I agree with that. Also, I’m in the touch with so many distraught parents over, especially the last year and a half, that have told me stories of their children were, you know, it is so serious what happens when they are traumatized by viewing this content. In some cases, they’ve said, you know, my son after viewing the homepage of Pornhub believes that he witnessed a rape, and based on what we know about Pornhub is very likely that he did witness an actual rape. But even if it was staged, he believed that it was. They said he wasn’t the same after that and he changed, and he was in a very concrete real sense traumatized by what he saw and had to go into therapy and they’re still working through that, and it’s you know, months and months later after exposure.

PornHub Traumatizes Children

In other cases, you know, parents have told me about situations where their children had viewed pornography and then acted out what they saw on their siblings. So, basically a situation of rape and sexual assault against a younger sister, and that’s not uncommon to hear those stories. And so, I just think it’s so important for us to just see the seriousness of this and handle it in a way that recognizes the real lasting trauma that could happen to children when they get exposed, and then we need to start advocating for protection, and we need to see mandatory age verification laws put in place. I was so encouraged to see what Germany is doing. I just posted this yesterday; Germany is taking it so seriously that they’re on the brink of shutting down Pornhub, XVideos, XHamster, and the major tube sites in the country. Turning the switch off because they refused to verify the age of users and protect children from this content because they recognize that it’s harmful to children.

Anne: Go Germany!

Laila: Yeah, exactly. And there are other countries, Canada has now a bill introduced to do the same where they would require age verification for any site that’s hosting pornography. And I think Australia is also looking into this, and the UK has been taking this pretty seriously. So, I’m hopeful that we’ll get to a point where we are collectively having a new attitude about this and taking the harm to children, very seriously.

What Is “Trafficking Hub”?

Anne: Let’s talk specifically about the trafficking hub movement, and what you are doing to stop the harm done by Pornhub, and also hold companies accountable, that are profiting from rape videos.

Laila: Yeah, so going back to where I left off with the story, so I have made that personal discovery, something that so many people have already known that all it took was to upload content onto the world’s largest porn sites that operate like Pornhub, XVideos was an email address. So anonymously anybody in the world with an iPhone could be a porn producer, but really it recorded a crime scene and upload it to this site, and nobody was verifying agent consent. And because of that the site was set up for exploitation and infested with videos of real rape, sex trafficking assault, and child sexual abuse, and also spycam videos where women are being recorded without their knowledge in public restrooms and changing rooms, and even teen prom toilets where they’d installed cameras there and were recording. The site was full of those kinds of things.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne: I’m going to take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page, which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama, is a picture book for adults. So, it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it, it’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart. After you have purchased the book, please remember to circle back around Amazon and write a verified purchase review, along with a five-star rating. That helps isolated women find us, it bumps Trauma Mama Husband Drama up in the Amazon algorithm, and even if women don’t purchase the book, it helps them find this podcast, which is free to everyone.

When Husbands Record Their Wives

I have met several women in our community whose husbands have secretly filmed them in the shower or while they were having sex that then they uploaded. So, we also know that in marriage relationships, this is happening, where husbands are secretly filming their wives in various compromising circumstances and uploading that.

Laila: Yes, that’s happening quite a lot. Yes, non-consensually recorded and distributed sex acts. And that is, again infested, these sites are infested with this kind of content where women are being recorded, they don’t even know, and then these videos are getting uploaded to sites like Pornhub. And Pornhub had a download button on every video, where anyone in the world, 130 million visitors per day, had an opportunity to for free download and own that trauma of that individual or that nonconsensual video that was recorded and distributed, and then re-upload it forever again and again and again and again. It gets completely out of control once it’s uploaded in the first place. So, the trauma to victims of this, they call it the immortalization of their trauma, where it’s one thing to experience a rape it’s another thing to know that that rape will be used for profit and pleasure, long after they’re even gone.

The Truth About PornHub

And so all that to say, back when I made this discovery about this issue of this site being full of these illegal crime scene videos, I wrote an Op-Ed about it in February of last year, that was published and it got an explosive reaction because people were shocked and horrified because Pornhub had presented itself to the world for so many years and spent so much money on things like Save the Pandas, and Save the Bees, and Save the Oceans, and raise awareness about breast cancer, and donate masks for Coronavirus to hospitals, and do all these different PR stunts to make people believe that they were this mainstream ethical cute porn company. And when they found out that the site was full of child rape and abuse, they were horrified and they wanted to do something, and they asked me to start a petition, which I did, by the way. They were horrified about what was going on and they said, I want to do something, please start a petition or I will. And I said okay.

The Petition That Went Viral

So, I copied and pasted my Op-Ed into a Change That petition that went viral and now we have 2.2 million signatures from 192 countries, and we’ve had over 600 organizations from 65 countries participate in calling for Pornhub to be held criminally responsible for what they’ve done. There have been protests that have been ongoing outside of the MindGeek headquarters. And MindGeek, FYI, MindGeek is the company that owns Pornhub. MindGeek owns 80%, that is a number that is cited, 80% of the online mainstream porn industry. They have a monopoly on the global mainstream porn industry, owning hundreds of brands and sites, and they basically have swallowed up all the little companies, rolled it all up into one huge mega-corporation, and that’s MindGeek. Pornhub is just one site of the many many sites that they own the flagship site for.

So, calling for criminal accountability for MindGeek, also hundreds of media articles were written in 2020, and then the New York Times did a groundbreaking investigation and released an expose in December called The Children of Pornhub. This was the harrowing stories of children who had been abused for profit on the site, and that resulted in 4000 follow-up articles and within days Visa, MasterCard, and Discover cut ties with Pornhub and MindGeek, and then Pornhub deleted 80% of its site. So, the 10th most visited website in the world, deleted 10 million videos in 24 hours after all this happened, and they’ve been on a trajectory of, kind of a crippling trajectory, ever since. You know, obviously financially crippled because they can only take cryptocurrency, but there’s also been parliamentary investigation launched where the hidden owners of Pornhub have been forced out of the shadows, they’ve been hiding their identities for years using fake names and concealing themselves from the public. They’ve been forced out of the shadows, they’ve been identified.

Bernard Bergemar, Feras Antoon, Cory Ermine, David DiSilva

Anne: Really quick, I doubt anyone would know actually who these people are, but who are they? Not like their names in particular, but like do they own a football team are they a doctor, you know, are they like upstanding members of society?  Who are they?

Laila: Yeah, well I will say their names because I do like saying their names because they’ve hidden for so long. So, Bernard Bergemar is a man from Austria who was found just weeks ago actually by an investigative journalist who located him, and actually got him on camera for the first time in London. But he also has a residence in Hong Kong, and he’s a businessman. Feras Antoon, and Cory Ermine. Cory Ermine has used fake names Corey Price and Blake White for years speaking in the media over and over and over again. David DiSilva. These are men who run the site and they profit from it.

PornHub Is Organized Crime

The latest lawsuit against MindGeek and Pornhub, on behalf of 34 for women, based on the testimonies of firsthand accounts of those inside the company, whistleblowers, and other evidence that this is actually a criminal enterprise. That this is organized crime, and they were sued, using the laws that we go after the mob with. So, Rico racketeering, child pornography, sex trafficking, and all of that. It was a massive lawsuit that was recently filed. So that’s kind of who they are.

Anne: This is very exciting. We talk about all the pain and suffering that pornography and sex trafficking and child sexual abuse have caused to the world in general and then obviously specific individuals. It’s just overwhelming, all the pain and suffering that is caused, so it’s super exciting that things might be happening. What do you think is next, and then also how can our community of women who have been so deeply impacted in their homes by pornography, how can they help this cause?

We Can Take PornHub Down

Laila: I agree. You know, there have been people and advocates who’ve been pioneering in pushing back against this for so many years and it’s so exciting to see traction and see the mega predator, that’s what I call MindGeek and Pornhub, being held accountable. Truly, it’s kind of a villain situation where you have the villain and the victims, and being able to see victims obtaining justice, getting their voices heard, of exposing the criminal enterprise as the lawsuit called it behind all this, is so encouraging and exciting, but we’re not done yet. Pornhub and MindGeek have been severely crippled, and we’ve already seen a domino effect happening within its largest competitor.

So, the New York Times also did an expose after Pornhub on XVideos and PayPal stopped doing business with XVideos and they’re under investigation, criminal investigation in the Czech Republic where they’re based, and there’s been changes and kind of a shaking and a reckoning within this industry, but we’re not done. We want to see real full justice, and for me and the victims that I’ve spoken to, what that means is restitution. We want to see successful civil litigation, and there have been six lawsuits on behalf of 97 women launched against MindGeek since the summer of last year, and three of them are class actions on behalf of traffic to minors. But we want to see these successful we want to see these victims compensated, and then we want to see criminal prosecutions of the executives responsible for this.

PornHub Victims Deserve Justice

Ultimately, what I see and what victims see as justice is to see the site shut down. To see Pornhub actually shut down, because you think about Harvey Weinstein when he was caught raping women, they didn’t let him just say sorry and go on his merry way. Like, that’s not how the law works, that’s not how justice works. He needs to be put in prison for sexual abuse, criminal sexual abuse. So, we need to see the same thing. We don’t let them just hide behind a corporation when this is actual real mass sexual abuse that has happened for so long.

If you want to be part of this, you know there are so many organizations and so many advocates and individuals and victims who’ve like joined together in this movement to hold MindGeek accountable. Sign the petition, traffickinghubpetition.com, share it, also speak with your representatives. They work for you. Raise this issue with them and tell them we need to see the Stock Internet Sexual Exploitation Act passed, and that would, you know, require age and consent verification for every individual in every video on these sites. If you want to contribute to the cause or my work, you can go to justicedefensefund.org and read about what we’re doing to empower victims to pursue civil litigation against their abusers because these corporate abusers care about finances above everything, and so if we can hit them where it hurts in their bank accounts on behalf of victims, I think that that’ll also help to really rein in this rogue industry.

“Awareness Is the Doorway To Action”

Anne: There are a lot of women that I talked to, and a lot of people I talked to who were like, they kind of roll their eyes when I talk about pornography. Thinking like, yeah, we know porn is bad but like trying to stop porn. Are you kidding me, you could never do that! And I always think absolutely we can, right. I don’t know how long it will take, I don’t know how we will do it, but we have to think that we can do something in order to actually do it. In the Christian faith, there’s you have to have faith, a grain of mustard seed in order to move a mountain. So. it starts with us believing that it’s possible and for my community, the first thing they need to start believing is possible, is that they themselves can get to safety in their own homes.

That their own home can be a place of peace and safety for them. Number one thing on their list is to get to emotional, physical, sexual safety in your own home. As a victim myself, your own heart leads you to try and help others. So, for members of my community please consider doing this, go to justicedefensefund.org, where you can get more information. And can you say that website one more time where they can sign that petition?

Laila: Yeah, it’s traffickinghubpetition.com, and you can sign that share that, and I always say awareness is the doorway to action. You know, people can’t act on something that they’re not aware of. And with regard to all of this in the porn industry and people not taking this seriously or kind of joking about it, I think what is really helpful is when people realize the real harm that this is doing to real victims in front of the screen, and behind it, and to begin seeing this as the real human rights issue that it is.

“Our Goal Is To Get Women To Safety”

Anne: Yeah, and we have to start somewhere. Making the world safer not only for the world in general but also for individual families and individual people. Our goal is to get women to safety.

Laila: Yes. Yeah, so get people to safety, that’s a great thing to focus on and doing that for those who are used behind the screens and those who like children who are being exposed to this prevents them from being exposed to this, prevent that sexual abuse from ever happening on both sides. That’s a job that could potentially take a long time and a lot of effort for us to do, and if we can do that, that’s a huge victory.

Anne: It’s just going to take a lot of little victories or a lot of big victories over time to make the world safe for everyone. I think that’s our goal, our overall goal, even though all of us are little pieces of this puzzle.

“Start Making Little Baby Steps In Any Way That You Can To Get Yourself To Safety”

Laila: Yes, and never underestimate. What I’ve seen so much over the last year and a half with this trafficking hub movement is that it’s one by one by one. Adding your voice, organizations collaborating, working together. We can’t take on a multibillion-dollar predatory criminal enterprise alone, we have to do it together. And that’s really the only way we’re going to get traction. So, encourage everyone to be empowered to participate in whatever way you can.

Anne: Absolutely. And I also just want to give women hope. In your own personal life if setting that boundary seems overwhelming, but like just doing one little thing, signing a petition might seem kind of like whatever, what good is that going to do? Just start making little baby steps in any way that you can to get yourself to safety and then to help others get to safety, and that is really really cool. I envision Betrayal Trauma Recovery helping support an army of healthy women across the world who are helping other women get to safety and that always makes me really happy.

Get Involved Today

Laila: I love the fact that this audience for this podcast is, what I think of it like an army of women who are so passionate about this issue because they’ve experienced the hurt of it themselves and can empathize and just come at it from a place of such a real motivation for ending something that you’ve personally experienced the harm of in your own life. Being able to use that energy and passion to help stop this from happening in the future to others. I love what you’re doing in your community.

Anne: Thank you, and we’re so grateful for you and what you do. Again, to find out more about Laila’s organization go to justicedefensefund.org.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.

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