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Front-Line Healthcare Professionals Discuss the Influence of Pornography on Young People

In a panel for Culture Reframed’s virtual event, The Impact of Pornography on Young People: Research, Practice, and Solutions, front-line healthcare professionals Louise Barraclough, RGN, MA, Joshua Bissell, MSW, and Heidi Olson, MSN, RN, CPN, SANE-P addressed how pornography grooms children in a myriad of harmful ways. The stories and examples of sexual abuse cases they shared help bring to life the alarming statistics and trends regarding pornography exposure among children.

Barraclough, a seasoned advocate for children’s rights and Lead Nurse at Devon & Cornwall Sexual Assault Referral Centres in the UK emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to tackling the harms of pornography. She highlighted the interconnected nature of various forms of violence and called for a unified strategy that addresses the root causes.

In her research, Louise found that 40% of children she’s worked with were sexually harmed by other children. She believes that pornography “breeds entitlement, violence, and misogyny” and is tied to 29% of her cases, where strangulation, unwanted and forced sex, slapping, or name-calling were involved.

Joshua Bissell, Program Director for Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) of Michigan, also stressed the importance of working together to address the issue effectively. He amplified the need for professionals across various fields — including social work, healthcare, and education — to receive training on the impacts of pornography. “We need to consolidate our similar efforts. We don’t need a new program. We need to prioritize this in our current programming,” he said. In that vein, Bissel joins Barraclough and Olson to support Culture Reframed’s initiative to develop educational materials and resources for professionals working with young sexual abuse victims.

Sexual assault nurse examiner Heidi Olson drew from her experience working with victims of sexual assault to shed light on the profound impact of pornography on young people’s understanding of healthy relationships and consent. She discussed the need for comprehensive sex education that addresses the influence of pornography and equips young people with the knowledge to navigate its effects. “There are a lot of kids who are struggling silently and not saying anything to adults about what’s going on,” she said.

The panel also touched on the role of parents and caregivers in mitigating the harms of pornography. “It’s not a child’s responsibility to protect themselves,” said Bissell. The panelists highlighted the kind of approach that Culture Reframed’s Programs for Parents is built on — an approach that encourages conversation rather than judgment.

In addressing the normalization of hypersexualized content in mainstream media, Olson and Bissell raised concerns about the desensitization of young people to harmful behaviors portrayed in television shows and online platforms. “Even if it’s not being called pornography, at the very basis of it, what kids are learning from it is that people are sexual objects,” said Olson.

Watch the full presentation here:

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