The devastation and pain that victims of betrayal trauma experience is often minimized because “it’s just porn.”
At BTR, we understand and affirm that pornography use is abusive. Women who experience this deep form of betrayal are experiencing the severe and debilitating effects of an abusive relationship and must be given the respect and support that they deserve.
Join Melea Stevens, board member on the National Center of Exploitation on the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Podcast for a deep dive into the intricacies of why and how pornography is an abuse issue and how this affects you.
Pornography Use Is Emotional Abuse
She doesn’t know what to do and she’s carrying all the anxiety for the relationship because he husband is married to this behavior, this other thing, and she’s neglected, she’s abandoned, and she’s continually getting the message of, “you’re not enough, you’re not attractive, you’re not wanted.” So, she’s carrying this psychological abuse, the emotional abuse, if not verbal use often times too. The husband, because he’s normalized it so much, he can’t even begin to see how he’s effecting his wife at that point. He has to go through recovery to begin to even have empathy, to restore trust, and to heal.Melea Stevens, board member on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation
The lack of empathy found in men who use pornography can be maddening, excruciating, and heartbreaking for partners. This unwillingness of abusive men to give love and understanding to a partner is emotional abuse, especially when the abuser has caused significant harm and should be making amends for his infidelity.
Another Layer of Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Lying and Manipulation
Women feel more confusion as abusers lie to protect their pornography use and other sexual-acting out behaviors. Lying, an emotionally and psychologically abusive behavior, has devastating effects on a victim in and of itself.
Further, the implicit and explicit messages of rejection, inferiority, and inadequacy that an abusive pornography user sends to his partner are direct forms of damaging emotional abuse.
Pornography Use is Child Abuse
…So many cases come in nowadays, you’re already seeing a lot of kids whose parents were addicted to pornography and the effects of that in the young adult population and how it affected their self-esteem and the messages that they got from their parents. It’s a lot to clean up and to heal from.Melea Stevens, board member on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation
When a child is exposed to pornography, that child has been sexually abused and must be treated for trauma. Further, in many cases, children are emotionally, psychologically, and physically abused by pornography-using fathers.
BTR Supports Victims of Emotional Abuse in Finding Safety
Women suffering from the devastating effects of emotional abuse and betrayal trauma may feel at times like they have no control, this is what abusers want them to think. However, women do have control over their own safety: they can seek safety through setting boundaries.
At BTR, we believe that an effective boundary protects women before she is harmed. BTR coaches are trained in helping women to create and maintain effective boundaries that can shield women and children from the devastating effects of a partner’s pornography use and abusive behaviors.
[They must care for their] own mental, emotional, and spiritual health first, and the health and wellbeing of the family and stabilizing that. That’s the most powerful thing that they can do, but then to continue to transform their pain into effective activism.Melea Stevens, board member on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation
Victims of Emotional Abuse Can Find Purpose After Betrayal Trauma
When a woman has found safety and is no longer being abused, she may feel a desire to advocate for other victims of abuse as part of her healing journey.
Regardless of where her journey takes her, the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is available to provide support, community, and empowerment to women all over the world. Join today.
Traditional Therapy Downplays Emotional Abuse
Tragically, many women have been sidelined as they have tried to explain why their partner’s pornography use has been so devastating to them. Therapists, clergy, family, and friends minimize his behavior and tell her that she should not be “so upset” over such a “small thing”.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Supports Victims of Emotional Abuse
When you join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, you will never be sidelined, disregarded, or dismissed. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group offers community, validation, support, and guidance as victims of abuse process their trauma, learn how to find safety, and ultimately begin their journeys to healing. Join today.
And remember, you are not alone.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
Last week, I spoke with Melea Stephens who is on the board of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. We’re going to continue that conversation today, but if you didn’t hear part one, please go back to last week, listen to that first, and then join us here.
This episode was recorded before the Summit that was in July, so when you hear us talking about that, know that it is still available online through NCOSE. You can also find those links on the articles associated with this podcast on our website. Go to btr.org, click on Education, then go to Podcast.
Before we get to today’s conversation, I want to just give a shout out to all of our members of Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group.
It’s an amazing online community where women have access to unlimited live support with our trained and certified Betrayal Trauma coaches and a community of women who are going through it. It is amazing. When you join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, you get unlimited support, as I said. There are multiple sessions a day in every single time zone across the globe.
We designed it like this long before the COVID-19 outbreak. We designed it so that women don’t have to find childcare or so they don’t have to set an appointment, because abuse episodes can happen at any time.
You can find out about porn at any time. You can be lied to at any time, and you need to get in right away to someone who understands it immediately. Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group provides that for women.
We’ve all be through it, we totally get it, and we built this for women just like us.
Go to our website btr.org, click on Join the Support Group to see our daily session schedule. We’d love to see you in a session today.
Now, for my continued conversation with Melea.
Anne: I often say, “If you’re an alcoholic, you abuse alcohol, if you’re a drug addict, you abuse drugs, if you’re a porn addict or a sex addict, you abuse people.”
Pornography Use is Abuse
Anne: It’s an abuse issue. It’s going to be an abuse issue. It’s not a moral issue, although it is. It’s definitely a moral issue, but the issue at hand is abuse.
Melea: It is. It’s abuse, it’s justice, it’s a health issue. People don’t understand because good people get hijacked by internet pornography, by hardcore pornography of today very quickly. I have so many people that come to therapy, women included.
The women tend to have more tangible shame, oftentimes. Men are ashamed too, but women will often come in very distraught. They’re like, “I don’t know why I’m pursuing this material. It controls me. I’m doing these things I never thought I would do.” This may have happened over the course of weeks or months, that they find themselves very quickly escalating into fetish behavior and destructive things that are consuming their thought, life, time, energy, and behavior.
Anne: On the other end of that, for their family members, let’s say their children, what their children are experiencing, while they’re going down that road, is neglect, a lack of empathy, a lack of understanding or whatever. To that child or to their family members, what that constitutes is abuse.
To the addict they are in the addict cycle, but what happens with their loved ones is that they end up being in the abuse cycle. They experience it as abuse.
Partners and Children Suffer When Husbands Use Pornography
Melea: They do. So often, when couples first come in, let’s say that the husband has been addicted to pornography for a long time, the wife is a frazzled mess crying, distraught, at her wit’s end. If she’s come to the place where she has enough strength to say, “Enough, I can’t do this anymore.” Usually, she doesn’t know what to do and she’s carrying all the anxiety for the relationship because her husband is married to this behavior, this other thing.
She’s neglected, she’s abandoned, and she’s continually getting the message of “You’re not enough, you’re not attractive, you’re not wanted.” She’s carrying this psychological abuse, the emotional abuse, if not verbal abuse, oftentimes too. The husband, because he’s normalized it so much, he can’t even begin to see how he’s affecting his wife, at that point.
He has to go through recovery to begin to even have empathy, to restore trust, and to heal. I’m sure you’re very familiar with that whole cycle, but it’s very devastating because it’s a long road and it’s a very abusive dynamic all around.
The effect on children, like you’re mentioning, so many cases come in and, nowadays, you’re already seeing a lot of kids whose parents were addicted to pornography and the effects of that in the young adult population and how it affected their self-esteem and the messages they got from their parents. It’s a lot to clean up and to heal from.
Education, Awareness, and Prevention
Anne: It is, and that’s what makes it a public health crisis. Speaking of the public health crisis, what do you hope will be gained through your state’s formal resolution identifying pornography as a public health crisis?
Melea: I hope that we have broad-based recognition, understanding, awareness of the harms of pornography to the body, the brain, relationships, and society at large. That has become much more broad-spread in Alabama, where we’re making gains.
I want it to impact our schools. We’re hoping to be able to tag onto some education programs that are going into the schools around child sexual abuse and child trafficking prevention. We want to do some early prevention in the schools.
We want to better enforce our existing laws, our state and county laws. A lot of them are not being enforced and they’re leaving citizens vulnerable.
There’s a myriad of things we want to do with trafficking initiatives, as well, just to continue to raise awareness and to mobilize citizens to begin to raise their voice and take a stand to upend and uproot all forms of sexual exploitation, but especially, as you said before, the beginning point, which is pornography.
Safety First, and Then Activism
Anne: Our listeners are, the majority, I’d say 99.99% of the people who listen to this podcast are women who are victims of this type of abuse in their home. Their husband is a user of pornography or ex-husband and has used it, and they have been abused through that experience, so they are really motivated on this issue.
Speaking to that, what would you encourage the listeners of this podcast to do in their respective states to acknowledge pornography as a public health crisis? In what ways could they become involved on a legislative level or maybe a more advocacy level?
Before you answer, this I do want to say to women listening, it’s essential that before you go out and try to do something in the world that you make sure that your own home is a haven of safety for you.
A lot of women, when this happens to them, they feel powerless in their own home because they’re experiencing this type of emotional and psychological abuse and they’re scared and not sure how they’ll make a living or whatever. Rather than making sure that they are emotionally, psychologically, sexually, and physically safe in their own home, they go out and try to conquer pornography outside the home first.
I want to say, “Don’t do that. You need to make sure that you are safe first.” That is your top priority, and if you make sure your home is safe, then you have basically liberated, at least, yourself and your children in your own home from this type of sexual exploitation. That is your number one job.
Anne: Do that first, and then, number two, if you’re like, “I want to be like Anne and start a podcast,” or go write some legislation or whatever it is you want to do, like Melea.
Victims Can Advocate For Safety
What would you say if they are ready for that second stage of advocacy?
Melea: Well, I would 100% agree with you about taking care of their own mental, emotional, and spiritual health first, and the health and wellbeing of the family and stabilizing that. That’s the most powerful thing that they can do, but then to continue to transform their pain into effective activism. Being an agent for change is a wonderful next step.
There are a lot of things they can do, but if they are interested in promoting the resolution to declare pornography a public health crisis in their state, it’s passed in 15 states, so far, but if theirs is one of the states where it has not been passed yet and they’d like to promote that, I would urge them to reach out to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to read the website, the portions that talk about the public health crisis, to familiarize themselves with the facts.
Then, if they really do have that level of motivation, because it does take a good bit of consistent energy and focus to work with legislators, it is well worth it, and it’s a wonderful process, I would encourage them to look at that.
We worked alongside many other local leaders such as Equal Forum was very helpful. The anti-trafficking groups were very helpful. We worked across the aisle. It’s a bipartisan issue. It passed unanimously in our Senate, but I learned a lot through the process. I would encourage them to consider that.
There are so many ways to get involved in terms of raising awareness in the schools. We really need people to raise awareness whether it’s in their schools or their church. There’s a wonderful user-friendly presentation that people can do, even in their own home, if they want to raise awareness among other moms and dads.
At protectyoungminds.org they have a great presentation, that’s packaged very nice, that could be used to help spread awareness and to start the dialogue. But the churches and schools, they need our voices desperately.
Anne: NCOSE has some amazing initiatives that you can join. NCOSE is the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and their website is endsexualexploitation.org. Last year, I spoke at the Summit. I’ve been to the Summit twice and I had a really good experience there.
They have lots of initiatives that you can join. You can join their Dirty Dozen list. Sometimes they’re asking for people to do signatures or other things. I think that’s a good place to start. Also, the information you were talking about with Protect Young Minds, who we are good friends with. We’ve had Kristen Jensen on the podcast several times.
I think getting educated about the different ways to protect, like Protect Young Minds focuses on kids, we focus on wives of abusers. The cool thing is all of us are really focused on our particular audience, but together we make such a strong team. That’s what is really exciting about this movement to end sexual exploitation.
Melea: Yes. I would encourage your listeners to consider joining our Summit this summer. We have a virtual Summit in July and it’s going to be fantastic, if they wanted to join us to learn more that way. As you mentioned, just to clarify, it is endsexualexploitation.org/actioncenter, if they want to join the newsletters and sign the petitions.
Anne: I will be speaking at that Summit this Summer. I spoke last Summer and am in the virtual Summit this year. For those of you who would like to hear my presentation, I will be there but there’s also a lot of other amazing people that you can get to know and become involved with when joining that Summit, so I highly recommend that for everybody.
Shut Down Pornhub
As we conclude, you mentioned Pornhub, which is our archnemesis in many ways. There is a current initiative to shutdown Pornhub. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Melea: Yes, there is an initiative by Laila Mickelwait with Exodus Cry, she’s their abolition strategist, and she started a movement called Trafficking Hub, traffickinghub.com is the website. It’s basically raising awareness about trafficking within the pornography industry and many of the cases that have been exposed recently. They’re gaining a tremendous amount of steam, they’ve had over a million signatures, and we would love for your audience to join on to that and help us shutdown Pornhub.
Anne: Wouldn’t that be a miracle.
Anne: So many of the women in our community are praying for a miracle. They’re praying that their husband can be, more or less, raised from the dead like Lazarus, because they’re just spiritually dead. Their affect is flat, they don’t have compassion, they don’t have empathy, and their behavior is putting the entire family at risk. Which is very scary, so many of these women are praying for a miracle.
I don’t know what those miracles are going to look like, but I can tell you that shutting down Pornhub would be part of that collective prayer that so many women are saying. They’re saying it for their own homes, their own husbands and their own families, but I do want them to recognize that there is this bigger effort out there and their participation and their prayers, and their hopes are collectively working. Just very slowly, slower than we would like.
Sometimes, even if in your own home, like with so many of the victims that I know about, it ended in divorce, which was very unfortunate, and they’re still being abused, they’re experiencing post-divorce abuse, so there is no end in sight for their psychological or emotional abuse situation, which is so unfortunate, especially when they share kids with that abuser, but there is a movement.
If you can’t see it in your own life, sometimes it helps to take a step back and to be able to observe the miracles that are happening overall and know that you haven’t been forgotten and that there is a movement towards this and you can be part of this movement.
Sometimes that makes the pain and all the heartache that a victim has gone through, it gives them a little bit of hope that there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
Melea: It is. It’s very encouraging. It’s gratifying. It gives purpose. Especially coming to events like the Summit where you’re surrounded by like-minded warriors that get it and that are seeing change. It builds hope and momentum.
Department of Justice and Federal Obscenity Laws
Just in addition to shutting down Pornhub being a dream come true, the dream that I have is that the Department of Justice would reactivate the obscenity section of the DOJ and enforce our existing federal obscenity laws. Because, if they did that in full force as they used to do, there would not be pornography on the internet. It wouldn’t be on cable or satellite or in the mail because all of those things are illegal.
It would be put back in the place of a very restricted category of softcore porn at only permissible adult bookstores that were hard to get to, how it was in the past. We’re closer to that if we enforced existing laws.
That is possible, but we have to have our Attorney General just turn his attention towards it. That is one of my consistent prayers. That whether it’s Attorney General Barr or whoever we have next, that very soon, we’ll have someone who is fearless and will reactivate that section that’s been lying dormant.
Anne: Absolutely. That’s another good thing to pray for. As if you didn’t have enough things to pray for listeners. You guys are like, “The prayers we’re praying aren’t coming true. We are sick of praying. We’ve been praying our guts out.”
Take a break from praying for a second, watch some Netflix that has no porn in it, and then say another prayer, right.
Melea: Pray without thinking. Pray without ceasing some more. It’s being heard. God is moving.
Anne: I love that. I’m like, “You can take a little break from praying.”
Melea: Yeah, you have to. I think God understands that, for sure.
Anne: Melea, thank you so much for being on today’s episode. We appreciate your time.
Melea: It’s my pleasure and honor. Thank you, Anne.
Anne: I want to thank everyone who has rated Trauma Mama Husband Drama, my new book. It’s available on Amazon. There is a Kindle version and a paperback version.
I want to also thank all of you for your patience with the rollout of the book. I’ve never rolled out a book before, and I just made all kinds of mistakes. It was sort of a disaster actually.
I’d really appreciate your help getting the word out. The idea was that we’d launch it big and make all of these things happen, and it was kind of a fail. We didn’t really get it as far and as wide as we wanted to get it.
If you have purchased the book and you liked it, will you please go to Amazon and rate it. The more ratings it gets, the more women will be able to see it, because that’s sort of how the Amazon algorithm works. The more 5-star ratings it has, then the more it comes up in the search when women are searching for books like this. Every single rating that you put on Amazon helps isolated women find this book.
I’m so grateful for those of you who have done that and those of you who have purchased the book. If you can’t find it on Amazon, just go to our books page btr.org/books, it will be right there. Just click on that and it will take you right to the Amazon page.
Until next week, stay safe out there.