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Trigger Warning & Disclaimer: This post tells a story of abuse against children, and one that is especially tragic for the victims and their families. While the man in this story was profoundly influenced and shaped by pornography as a child, he is still fully responsible for the acts of perpetration he later committed. As such, perpetrators must always be held accountable to the full measure of the law. At the same time, it’s critical to understand the role pornography plays in pulling children down dark and dangerous paths, and we believe many such tragedies can be avoided when children are properly protected.
This is the story of a man named Derek,* whose exposure to porn at a young age caused a fierce addiction that led to drastic and devastating consequences for all involved, and eventually landed him in prison.
“I was exposed to porn at around the age of 11. I don’t remember how, but I would find sites via certain search engines at the time that would show me unfiltered content.
My parents found out and purchased some filtering software and even signed up with an ISP that specialized in family filtering, but within a month I had worked out how to get around it all (this was in 2004).
Around the same time, I was getting curious as to what I was seeing and wanted to experience it for myself, so I’d ask female friends to sneak into their rooms under their sheets and let me see their private parts. I became more and more addicted and got to the point where I snuck my 12-year-old neighbor into my room when I was 13 and we both lost our virginity that night.
I didn’t stop there though. I ended up sexually abusing a dozen girls over a 5 year period.
All this time I was a youth leader at a camp and church, and was even in charge of training our leaders at one point. At the age of 16, one of the girls spoke up to her parents and I was dragged into their house to explain. They forgave me as long as it didn’t happen again and that scared it out of me for a while.
I kept my addiction to porn though, and even got to the point of diving into the dark web where I stumbled across child pornography. I was hooked, and kept trying to find more without getting caught. After a few months, the guilt became too much and I wiped everything, vowing never to return.
This was all fine until I was 22 when I got into a dark place in my life. I moved out of home, changed my job, changed church, and changed my friend group, all within a few weeks. My life balance was absolutely thrown.
Being a registered child sex offender for life changes a lot for your life.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I was depressed and down. I hadn’t had a girlfriend for 8 years and I was struggling to get anyone to notice me, especially as an introvert where I struggled to make an effort on this.
A friend’s younger sister was at my new church and we started chatting on Kik, and then Snapchat. She was 13 years old. We became close and she would confide in me and I would try and help her.
One late night, I started getting silly and pushing boundaries, and the next thing I knew we were sending nudes to each other on Snapchat. I thought surely I wouldn’t get caught with the data disappearing. It got worse as we started sexting and video calling late at night, getting raunchier each time.
Within a couple of months, I arranged to pick her up in the middle of the night in secret and take her back to my house. At that point, I took her virginity. A week later, I had a call from her parents saying they had found some nudes I had sent their daughter, and reminded me that she was only 13 and not to contact her again. I was scared and blocked her on everything I had and left anywhere I would have contact with her. I ran scared for months.
Nine months later she contacted me out of the blue from a new account. She was 14 by this stage, and I was 23. I was curious and played cautious for a couple of days, but within a week I arranged another meetup with her, this time driving her somewhere private and performed oral sex on her. I dropped her off and thought nothing of it, we eventually dropped contact again.
I had a knock on my door. The family had found out what had happened and taken her to the police to report me.
My life took a turn and I managed to shed my addiction and thought I was safe and far away, never to get caught. I got into youth ministry and Bible college and started thinking my life had turned around. Within a month of this all happening though, I had a knock on my door. The family had found out what had happened and taken her to the police to report me.
They took me to the station to interview me, and some of the hardest parts of my life started right there. It took 5 months for me to go through the court process, and I was sentenced to 22 months in prison.
I thought my life had ended there and then. I spiraled. I struggled. I had acted on what I had seen without so much as a second thought. I had placed adult tendencies on a 13/14-year-old girl. I’m now grateful for that wake-up call. If it was my daughter, I hope I would do the same thing.
My first 7 months were spent sitting in prison, waiting for the day to be released, and then I was accepted into a group therapy course—1 of 2 specialty courses in the country’s prison system.
I was transferred to a different district to attend this course for an intensive 10-week live-in, talking with 2 full-time therapists and the other 8 guys on my intake. I learnt a lot in that 10-week course as well as through remaining prison time as I stayed in that unit until my release, working with other prisoners also on the same course.
I have been out of prison for 3 years now. It certainly hasn’t been easy. Being a registered child sex offender for life changes a lot for your life. It’s not so easy to befriend people or just live life when there are people out there sending you death threats and you know that a lot of people know who you are and what you did.
I still struggle from time to time with addiction popping up every now and then, but I am far better equipped to handle it now with the tools I was given with my time in prison and general maturity with age. My story is still being written, but I can only think of what my life would be like if I hadn’t been introduced to porn at such a young age.”
Underage exposure to porn is devastating millions of kids around the world. Here are three ways you can help strengthen the fight to #ProtectChildrenNotPorn:
1. Join 50k+ others by signing the petition demanding age verification, with ID, on every single porn site. Then share it.
2. Watch Raised on Porn, free on YouTube, then like, comment, and share it with 5 friends.
3. Give. The more resources we have the more people we can reach with this film and campaign.
*Name changed per the request of the story submitter.