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Porn and Sex-Trafficking: A Convergence of Religious Leaders Speak Out

Last Updated: April 27, 2015

On April 13 and 14, hundreds of religious, political, and technology leaders gathered outside Baltimore, Maryland, for the Convergence Summit. The purpose of the summit was to address the convergence of new technology, pornography, prostitution, and human trafficking, in an effort to understand the critical issues and develop solutions.

Click here to see the videos. Please note: Some of the subject matter in these videos involves descriptions of violent and degrading sexuality. Listener discretion is advised.

. . . .

Linda Smith – President and Founder of Shared Hope International

In her book, From Congress to the Brothel, Linda Smith talks about her journey to Mumbai when she was still a a member of the House of Representatives. Mumbai was then one of the worst brothel districts in the world, and her experiences there were the impetus for forming her non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating sex-trafficking.

Linda presents stories from her recent book, Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children. She explains how so many girls in the USA are made a part of the commercial sex industry.

Learn more by watching Shared Hope’s documentary, Demand.

Israel Gaither – Past National Commander of The Salvation Army

In this opening keynote address, Israel Gaither gives an urgent summons to faith leaders to band together to protect children from sexual deviancy in America.

Though recently retired from service in The Salvation Army, Gaither has spent years traveling the world as a Christian leader, mobilizing people to take a stand for mercy and justice.

Gaither’s message calls faith leaders to embody the words of Salvation Army founder William Booth:

“While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight. While children go hungry as they do now, I’ll fight. While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one lost soul without the light of God, I’ll fight. I’ll fight to the very end.”

Dr. Mary Anne Layden – Director of Education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Layden is one of the foremost researchers in America on the effects of sexually explicit media on beliefs and behaviors. In this presentation she gives some shocking statistics from clinical studies about the “permission-giving beliefs” pornography encourages in its viewers. She also presents data about the life of sex-workers in the porn industry and data about the pornifying of the broader culture.

For a peek at some of the research she presented, read “Is Porn Raising Your Kids?

Dr. Patrick Fagan – Director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council

Dr. Fagan follows Dr. Layden’s presentation by talking about the impact of pornography and sexual media on society at-large. Fagan speaks mostly about the resources MARRI offer for individuals, families, and churches who want to combat sexual deviancy in our culture.

Read Dr. Fagan’s report, “The Effects of Pornography of Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community.”

Dr. Judith Reisman – Former President of The Institute for Media Education

Dr. Reisman is one of the finest historians of the field of sexology in America. She is a also an expert in media forensics, the scientific analysis of images, pictures, cartoons, illustrations, pornography, and text in sexual harassment of women and children. She has been a consultant to four U.S. Department of Justice administrations, the Department of Education, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services.

In her presentation, Reisman gives the conference-goers an understanding about how sexual norms changed in America, specifically looking at the influence of Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

For more information, listen to Covenant Eyes’ podcast interview with her.

Dr. William Struthers – Associate Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College

Dr. Struthers says the brain is “the most sexual organ in the body.” As a neuroscientist, Dr. Struthers studies sexual arousal from a neuro-chemical point of view. His latest book, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, explores this topic in detail.

Dr. Struthers talks about how the brain is wired for sexuality and how numerous studies show the way porn “rapes the brain.”

You can also listen to our podcast interview series with Dr. Struthers for more details.

Steve Largent – President and CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association

As a former member of U.S. Congress, Steve Largent understand the need for a constructive dialogue between public and private organizations, especially when it comes to policies that protect children. And as president of the world’s largest trade association for wireless phones, Largent speaks for the whole mobile phone community when he says, “The wireless industry understands the importance of a safe mobile environment.”

In this brief talk, Largent addressed the conference-goers with his words of reassurance about the future of the mobile market as it pertains to child safety issues.

Donna Rice Hughes – President and Founder of Enough is Enough

Donna Rice Hughes has been a part of Enough is Enough since 1994, and since then she has watched the birth and explosive growth of online forms of pornography and child victimization.

Mrs. Hughes’ team at EIE has found that when it comes to all the cooperative efforts to protect kids from Internet dangers, parents are the weakest links in the chain.

In this presentation Mrs. Hughes talks about the three kinds of pornography found online: (1) indecency (material harmful to minors but protected free speech), (2) obscenity (graphic sexuality that is not protected free speech), and (3) child pornography. She talks specifically about how pornographers are marketing these forms of pornography to children.

You can also listen to our interview with Mrs. Hughes.

Dr. Dale S. Kuehne – Professor of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College

St. Augustine says a country is defined by what it loves. In this brief talk, Dr. Kuehne says we live in a country in love with the self, and as a result we are losing relational hope. We see it in the stats every day: credit card debt, children born in single-parent households…and the sexualizing of our children.

Other nations seem to see the social cost of pornography, but in America our churches, our parents, and our government are in denial. Dr. Kuehne gives conference-goers a powerful call to be counter-cultural despite America’s blindness.

Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse – Director and Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute

In this presentation, Dr. Crouse talks about how pimps and traffickers exploit human beings to make money. She talks about the seamless connection between the Internet and various forms of sexual exploitation in what she calls the “virtual brothel.” She highlights the role the Internet is now playing in the buying and selling of human beings, as johns network with other johns worldwide. Dr. Crouse talks about how pimps typically capture vulnerable women, not just in shopping malls, but also in chat rooms. She also talks about how sexting teens also make themselves vulnerable online.

Dr. Crouse makes the strong case that pornography is simply virtual prostitution.

Detective Thomas Stack – Washington D.C. Metro Area Law Enforcement

Often our images of prostitution are informed more by Pretty Woman than reality. Detective Stack is under no such illusion. He has personally helped many prostitutes in his line of work. His presentation offers us a brutal picture of the life of a prostitute: a life characterized by short life-expectancy, violence, and rape.

Detective Stack shares stories from the field, talking about the way pimps manipulate young women, and how the abused can feel so trapped by those who manipulate them.

Patrick Trueman, Esq. – Former Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, U. S. Department of Justice

Patrick Trueman is the nations foremost authority on laws related to pornography and obscenity. In this presentation, Mr. Trueman talks about the ways different presidential administrations have dealt with pornography laws.

He believes the Justice Department can successfully take action against the major distributors of illegal pornography just like it has done in the past. Trueman believes juries can and will convict pornography distributors when the Justice Department decides it is going to enforce existing laws.

Ron DeHaas – President and CEO of Covenant Eyes

Mr. DeHaas has been on the front lines of family Internet protection for more than 11 years. His mission has not only been to help people trapped in unhealthy Internet habits, but to help prevent bad habits before they start.

Mr. DeHaas’ message is about what we can do to be proactive to protect ourselves online. He talks about the importance of becoming educated about Internet dangers and solutions. He talks about the most common ways kids are getting around web filters and how many teens are engaged in risky online behaviors.

DeHaas also gives action steps for churches and organizations.

Learn more about why DeHaas started Covenant Eyes in our interview with him.

Judge David Shaheed – Superior Court Judge for the State of Indiana

Judge Shaheed shares a number of stories of arrests and convictions for sex traffickers. He also talks about the current problems for law enforcement when it comes to making progress in this area.

Sitting behind the bench, Judge Shaheed knows that when adults are convicted of sex or drug crimes, it is often too late to give them the kind of help they really need. He gives a passionate call to conference-goers to get involved personally in the lives of young people before they start making poor decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.

Lisa Thompson – Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking, The Salvation Army

Thompson talks about the connection between sex trafficking and things like prostitution, stripping, and pornography. There are “symbiotic relationships” among these forms of commercial sex. She goes so far as to say that “pornography is prostitution for mass consumption.”

Many times those opposed to sex trafficking are opposed to the force or coercion, but have no problem with the pornography that feeds the demand for commercial sex. Thompson talks about this and many other internal inconsistencies in the anti-trafficking movement.

Steve Wagner – Former Director of the Human Trafficking Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

“Trafficking” is a bit of a misnomer: it has less to do with the movement of human beings and more to do with exploitation. Sadly, a quarter of a million American kids are trafficked every year. Why has it become this bad in the U.S.?

Steve Wagner talks about the “perfect storm” of forces that have led to America becoming an exploitative culture: abuse in the home, “throwaway kids,” sexual education based on Kinsey’s ideals, and the prevalence of pornography.

Wagner talks about the limitations of government and police when it comes to fighting these crimes. Sadly, these are limitations the public often imposes.

For more information about what Mr. Wagner is doing now to fight human trafficking, listen to our interview with him.

Shelley Lubben – Former porn actress, founder of the Pink Cross Foundation

Lubben talks about the “classic porn star background” against the backdrop of her own story. She talks about her first experiences in prostitution, relaying graphic stories about her twisted world of lies, coercion, violence, drugs, and disease. From there she moved into stripping and escort services where she again encountered a world of greed and violence.

Lubben also talks about her introduction into the porn industry in the San Fernando valley (where 85% of the world’s porn content is created). There she found the same dark and dangerous world common in all branches of the sex industry.

Her emotional and powerful presentation offers listeners a graphic picture of the depraved underbelly of pornography.

For more information about her story, listen to our four-part podcast interview with Shelley.

Laura Lederer – Former Senior Adviser on Trafficking in Persons in the Office for Democracy and Global Affairs

“Pornography, says Laura Lederer, “is a brilliant social marketing campaign for commercial sexual exploitation.” Lederer talks about not only the organized efforts of sex tourism and sex trafficking, but the ways pornographers have consulted with the top minds in social marketing to change the way men understand sexuality.

Lederer calls the anti-porn/anti-trafficking movement to form their own social marketing campaign to combat decades of miseducation about sex that has led to the pornification of our culture.

  1. David Frazier

    I watched the documentary “Abolition”
    POWERFUL! I had no idea. I literally can’t stop weeping
    IT IS TIME TO DO SOMETHING!!!!

    • Luke Gilkerson

      @David – Thanks for watching. It really is a hard-hitting documentary: very true to life. In the end, I really believe the church must respond to our sexualized culture with these sorts of tragedies in mind, understanding porn as not simply as something that personally defiles me, but something that is a part of a larger industrial commercial sex enterprise that brings great harms to the world at large.

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