Why are we ignoring the warnings that porn destroys children?

A front-page report in the Irish Examiner last Monday by Cormac O’Keefe says Irish frontline therapists are seeing the  “shocking” link between children’s exposure to pornography and sexual abuse.

Commenting on a recent study by the Children’s Commissioner for England showing sexual violence commonly seen in pornography was found in half of police interview transcripts of child-on-child sex abuse cases, Emer O’Neill, CEO, CARI, a specialist charity providing therapy to children who have been sexually abused said they have observed a similar situation here in Ireland.

“In our experience when children under 12 are exposed to pornography, they act out what they have seen online on other children, which is extremely concerning. The findings confirm the high correlation between pornography and peer or sibling abuse, she said.

Fiona Jennings, head of policy and public affairs at ISPCC, said: “The findings of this research are shocking and disturbing but, unfortunately, not surprising. We know from our own work that viewing such material is causing some children and young people to act out the behaviours they witness on their peers.” 

A report by Barry Roche in today’s Irish Times says Judge Catherine Staines has called for greater restrictions to prevent children accessing pornography as she sentenced a teenage boy, who has been watching porn since he was 11 years old, to 18 months detention for the assault and sexual assault of a young woman walking home alone in Cork.

“It is shocking that this is available to vulnerable, impressionable young people. Clearly companies are making vast sums of money from selling pornographic material. More rigorous restrictions should be placed on them to prevent this harmful material being available to young children,” she said.

Also, in today’s Irish Times, an opinion piece by Breda O’Brien begins: “It is a myth that you can boil a frog by gradually increasing the water’s temperature. Our sane amphibian friends register danger as the water heats and hop out. On the other hand, humans will not only not hop out of boiling water, but will vociferously defend their human right to be boiled alive. Worse still, they will witness their children being slowly scalded and wail that there is absolutely nothing to be done about it.”

O’Brien goes on to summarise the UK report and she concludes that “it has two really helpful pieces of advice – talk early, talk often; and create the culture before the crisis. In other words, create a safe, judgment-free space before they have had a chance to access porn.

Yes, it’s awkward and potentially cringe-making for all concerned, but the alternative to compassionate, empathetic communication is letting our children be metaphorically boiled alive by a vile, greedy multimillion dollar industry.”

We are now in the ‘First Communion’ season and many children will use the money that they get to buy their first phone.

A report commissioned by Women’s Aid last year found 71% of Irish people agree that pornography is harming society.

‘Time To Talk About Porn’ report includes statistics from a national representative survey conducted by RedC, confirm that the majority of the Irish public believe that porn is contributing to gender inequality, sexist double standards, unrealistic sexual expectations, normalisation of request for sexual images including among children, and directly contributing to coercion and violence against women and girls, including image-based sexual abuse. 

A majority believe that pornography is too accessible to children, and that it is contributing to gender inequality and to coercion and sexual violence against women and girls. 

The vast majority (81%) of 18-25 year olds believe that pornography is increasing young men’s interest in seeking rough or violent sex.

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid said research shows that boys as young as eight-years old are accessing pornography online and that one in every three porn videos depicts explicit sexual violence or aggression:

“Pornography undermines the social, emotional, cognitive and sexual development of boys, and it is young girls who pay the price.  It also harms young boys and men. 

The exposure to pornography at an early age is a traumatic and confusing experience. Evidence shows that the earlier you watch pornography the more likely you are to suffer with depression and anxiety and experience sexual dysfunction.”

Never before in human history, have children been exposed to so much vile material.

The effects of this will be seen in the years ahead.

The danger is that the damage done may not be repairable.

Why are we ignoring the warnings?