This post was originally published on The Gold Coast Bulletin’s website. It has been edited for content and clarity. 5 minute read.

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FTND note: In sharing this article, it is not our intention to make the claim that behind every violent sex crime is a pornography problem.

A concerning new trend tracked by welfare workers at the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence is shining a light on the increased number of women who have been raped and subjected to violence. According to community forums, the Gold Coast’s domestic violence crisis is being driven by abusers who are consumed by their interest in pornography that depicts these harmful behaviors.

This week, Centre director Di McLeod addressed more than 50 community stakeholders and detailed the shocking violence which included women being coerced into group sex and being strangled and choked. Much of the violence had occurred after women were raped, and their injuries required them to obtain treatment in the emergency room at local hospitals.

Related: National Survey Shows Nearly Half of Adults Think Violent Porn Is Okay

“These levels of physical and sexual violence are bordering on and including behavior that would meet the criminal code definition of torture,” Ms. McLeod told the Problem with Porn conference at Southport. “What used to be an uncommon story is now very much an everyday story involving women of varied ages and diverse backgrounds.”

In the past five years, the Coast center had experienced a 56% increase in referrals from emergency departments of local public hospitals, the forum was told.

Related: Research Finds Softcore Porn Leads To Greater Acceptance of Rape Culture

“Sometimes the sexual violence is committed by a just-met partner, but in cases where the woman has knowledge of the offender’s habits she has often identified that the offender is a regular consumer of pornography,” Ms. McLeod said.

Not Every Consumer

The forum was told it was clear not everyone who viewed pornography would commit sexual and domestic violence “because some men who use pornography don’t rape.” In fact, most people who view porn do not act out in violence. However, the experiences of these women focus heavily on their abusers’ porn habits.

“But what research is finding and what we are seeing at our center is that pornography is clearly influencing sexual expectations and practices between intimate partners, so that the correlation between pornography, rape, and domestic violence can no longer be ignored,” McLeod said.

The key finding by welfare workers was those viewing porn could not see the difference between fantasy and reality and believed “women are up for [sex] 24-7.” The increased reporting figures were due to the extent of the injuries, as well as many women now feeling more empowered to report what happened to them.

Anti-porn activist and author Melinda Tankard Reist highlighted an email she had received a year ago from McLeod warning about the concerning trends on Australia’s Gold Coast.

“If we don’t address this, you will be more overloaded with clients than you already are,” Tankard Reist said.

Conditioned From a Young Age

Her research showed the average age of exposure to pornography was 11 but that introduction was far beyond boys just “viewing bare breasts” and often involved youth watching rape porn.

“I believe it is an act of child abuse to expose our children to this. Everywhere I go schools are reeling, they are playing catch-up (to deal with this issue),” Tankard Reist said.

Interviews with young schoolgirls revealed their bodies were being judged by some male students and rated as porn stars. Some girls who were hoping for a warm relationship were told her by their boyfriends “give me a blow job and I’ll give you a kiss.”

Related: Sex Before Kissing: How 15-Year-Old Girls Are Dealing With Porn-Addicted Boys

After watching the film Fifty Shades of Grey, many teenage girls believed that being stalked by a man was romantic, Tankard Reist said.

“They feel the equivalent of being a sexual service station for the boys and guys,” she said.

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Why This Matters

Why is it that society openly speaks out against rape and abuse, yet doesn’t condemn porn that fetishizes and promotes this behavior and worse?

The stories above are from real people who are getting hurt, and porn’s influence is a part of that. We cannot be okay with this. Stories like these provide all the more reason why consuming porn is unhealthy—and sometimes even dangerous. It’s a shorter jump than you’d think from watching something in porn to wanting to imitate it in real life, even if that something is abusive or aggressive.

Related: Elizabeth Smart Speaks For The First Time About Pornography’s Role In Her Abduction

Did you know that a connection has been found between people who view pornography and people who commit sexual crimes? Now, we’re not saying that watching porn will automatically make someone become a serial rapist, while it cannot be denied that porn is inherently connected with sexual violence. It’s worth considering just how much they’re connected.

While we are not saying that everyone who watches porn is going to turn into an attacker, we are pointing out the fact that porn isn’t as harmless as the porn industry and society would have you think. Don’t buy the idea that porn doesn’t influence the consumer’s thinking, sexual preferences, or understanding of what consent means because countless case studies and research show that it can heavily influence those things.

The facts are clear: porn is harmful and research is proving it. No matter what people say to try and make porn seem normal or harmless, there’s enough evidence out there that says it’s not, no matter which continent you’re on. With porn being so available, affordable, and accessible, we have to be informed on its real harms on real people. And it starts here, with us.

What YOU Can Do

Porn is harmful and research is showing that. SHARE this article and raise awareness on the harms of porn and its connection to domestic violence.

 

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