Pornography and Human Trafficking

The Just Jesus. Adventist Campus Ministries featured a speaker on the link between pornography and human sex trafficking at the McGovern Event Center Nov. 16. Haley Halverson, vice president of Advocacy and Outreach for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation in Washington D.C., offered students and community members a new perspective on the subject. 

“I’m not talking about this as a moral perspective,” Halverson said. “I am talking about this from a public health perspective. The same way that we have to talk about smoking.”

According to federal law, sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provisioning, patronizing or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act through force, fraud and cohesion. Adding that under federal law, any person that is engaged in selling sex who is under the age of 18 is, by definition, also a sex trafficking victim.  

“Even in states like North Dakota, sex trafficking is a huge problem,” Halverson said. She has previously spoken with many people who have presented the issue that the oil boom drove up rates of sex trafficking in the part of the state.  

Halverson said there are websites such as Backpage — a classified advertising website that has been accused of being used for prostitution and human trafficking— where people go to easily buy and sell other human beings for sex. She visited the site recently and found that there were people being bought and sold in the Fargo-Moorhead area this week.  

“Everyone understands that sex trafficking is bad. It is obviously harmful. It is obviously a crime. But how are sex trafficking and pornography linked?” Halverson asked. “Pornography increases the demand for sex trafficking. Pornography is often used to train victims of sex trafficking, that victims are made to produce pornography and that there is even trafficking in the pornography industry.” 

Halverson said pornography does not only have negative effects on the individuals that are being trafficked, but that it takes a toll on the mental health of the individuals watching it and makes them think that some of the acts performed is normal. She then quoted the feminist researcher Dr. Gail Dines. 

“We are in the midst of a massive social experiment, one that is reshaping the lives of young people all over the globe. Never before have children and youth had complete access to hardcore pornography that is based on degradation, defacement and humiliation of women,” Halverson quoted. 

Halverson also said there are many studies that show how consistently watching pornography physically shrinks portions of the brain and that as youth are experimenting on the internet, they expect to see a nude image but what they find is more extreme material. As the dopamine decreases with the more benign pornography, the youth become addicted and graduate to the more extreme content and can eventually have desires to act them out on real people.  

Elizabeth Smart, a survivor of sex trafficking was quoted saying, “I can’t say that he would not have gone out and kidnapped me had he not looked at pornography. All I know is that pornography made my living hell worse.” 

Smart explained that her abuser would watch pornography and then act out what he had just watched on her, a young girl at the time.  

“While not everyone who watches pornography will act out in this way, everyone who watches pornography knows how to act out in this way,” Halverson said. “They know how to better abuse or exploit someone else through watching that material. Pornography culture is feeding rape culture.” 

Halverson stated she believes pornography lies to its users. She said it shows women as tools to be used and shows all men to be predators that could never be capable of holding back from assaulting another person due to their sexual urges. Both of which — she made clear — are false statements. 

She stated for this reason, young men in particular should be upset that the pornography industry is presenting this type of material into young boy’s minds because “it is a complete lie about the sexual integrity of any person.”

Halverson said that some of the sex victims that are involved with pornography are forced and intimidated to sign contacts outlining what they are comfortable with. This way if the victim ever speaks out, they have documented consent. She reminded the crowd that forced pornography is a form of sex trafficking. 

“There are also issues like live webcam videos or sometimes rape cams from countries like Cambodia, but also increasingly within America itself,” Halverson said. “When there is pay-per-view, people will send in requests while they watch the rape of a sex trafficking victim online.” 

Halverson said that if you would like to combat sex trafficking, you could talk to your legislation to amend a law that makes it difficult to stop websites that are used for sex trafficking or you can visit EndSexualExploitation.org for further information. 

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