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Doug Robinson: One woman's crusade against the evils of porn

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 3:22 a.m. MDT

Addictions, like pornography, lead to other addictions; lies to other lies. When the drug has run its course, there is a need for a stronger drug — from videos to strip joints and other women and even drugs. “It erodes the conscience and the spirit.” (AP) Addictions, like pornography, lead to other addictions; lies to other lies. When the drug has run its course, there is a need for a stronger drug — from videos to strip joints and other women and even drugs. “It erodes the conscience and the spirit.” (AP)

In the end, it has all worked out for Amy (not her real name). She is the wife of a good man and the mother of four children, and she lives in a big house in a quiet hillside neighborhood. They are the picture of prosperity and familial happiness.

Amy is a full-time mother who takes children to dentist appointments and music lessons, but on the side she has become a crusader in the fight against pornography.

She speaks at firesides and LDS “standards nights.” She speaks in Sunday church meetings. She promotes White Ribbon Week and a parent group known as Citizens for Humanity. She served in an anti-porn booth during BYU women’s conference. She has become a mentor for more than 100 women who have sought her out to discuss their husbands' addiction. They find her by word of mouth or because they heard her speak. Every time Amy speaks publicly on porn, she is approached by women afterward who suspect their husbands or the husband of a friend have the addiction.

“I’ve become a magnet for these women,” she says.

This is not a complaint. No one has more empathy for these women, and it is a hard-won empathy. Amy’s adulthood has been a life interrupted. In a world that is slowly awakening to the insidiousness of porn, Amy tells another cautionary tale. She has made it her personal mission for more than two decades to educate and warn, and her story comes with it.

She was a faithful Mormon girl raised in Utah. She met “Ed” in high school. Their path to adulthood followed the roadmap for Mormon youth. He served a church mission, she went to BYU. By all accounts, he was an exceptional missionary. He was assistant to the president, and returning missionaries gave glowing reports of his work to friends back home.

Amy and Ed married shortly after he returned from his mission. He undertook pre-med studies and worked nights. After a year, they had a child. By all appearances, it was a model marriage, but in truth it was something else.

A year into their marriage, she found a pornographic magazine on the floor of their apartment when she returned home unexpectedly. He explained that a friend had stuck it in his backpack as a joke. Amy was disturbed by the incident, but she accepted his explanation.

“I was so naïve,” she says. “I knew nothing about porn.”

A year later, she got up in the middle of the night and found him watching a pornographic video. “What’s going on?” she demanded. He confessed that he had been addicted to porn for years. At the age of 12, he had found a stack of porn magazines in a field and hid them under his bed. That was the start of an addiction that he carried even into the mission field, where he sometimes sneaked out of his apartment in the middle of night for a fix. He explained that he had tried to stop, sometimes going two or three months without giving in to temptation, but he always crashed.

Amy’s reaction was predictable. What’s wrong with me? By any standard, she was and is a beautiful woman — tall and slender with blue eyes and high cheekbones. But that is largely irrelevant.

“You are the drug and then it wears off,” she explains. “It’s all about the sex act. It’s not about the emotional connection. The woman is nothing more than an object — what pleasure can she bring to me? They lose the ability to love.”

There was nowhere to turn for help in those days, so she began researching the varied effects of pornography by reading about it. Ed resisted Amy’s encouragement to seek counseling. She compromised: Every time he felt his urges, he must talk to her about it and be honest. Every two weeks, she asked him how he was doing. He would look her in the eye and say, “I don’t think I’ll ever have a problem again.”

Six months later, just when her trust was being restored, she began to see more warning signs, although she didn’t recognize them at the time. Ed threw tantrums that were completely out of character. He smelled like cigarette smoke. She found items around the apartment that she later realized were gifts from women.

Then one day she looked for a pencil in his backpack and found chewing tobacco instead. I don't know this person, she thought. It was just one more secret, one more lie. “I knew immediately that he was still watching porn because he was lying,” she says. On a hunch, she called a local video store and asked if they had returned their latest videos and what were the titles? The titles were porn videos.

She took the baby and moved out that day. She returned unexpectedly that night to pick up some things and found him watching another porn video. Instead of mourning the loss of his family, he was feeding his habit. After fasting and praying she confronted him: “Are you seeing other women?” He denied it. She felt moved to rephrase the question: “I know you’ve been seeing other women; you owe it to me to tell me.” His face turned red, but he didn’t shed a tear.

“I saw his heart,” she says. “I knew I had to leave. The trust was gone, the love was gone. I felt I was married to a stranger.”

After three years of marriage, they divorced.

Addictions, she says, lead to other addictions; lies to other lies. When the drug has run its course, there is a need for a stronger drug — from videos to strip joints and other women and even drugs. “It erodes the conscience and the spirit,” says Amy.

It’s strange: We use hand sanitizers to disinfect our hands and kill germs we can’t see, but most people let something at least as harmful into their homes that leads to so many social ills — prostitution, sex slavery, wife and child abuse, drugs, rape, even murder.

Motivated by her experience, Amy returned to school after the divorce and took a degree in behaviorial science. “I wanted to learn all about porn addiction and what it did to that person,” she says. “It was the scariest thing I had ever seen. It took what it means to be human right out of the person. Porn attacks the very heart of man and the core of our society. It leads to deception and creates an inability to love and respect others."

Amy remarried a few years later. As for Ed, he has seen a once-promising life unravel. Since the divorce, he has struggled with drug addiction, criminal charges, school suspension, health problems and more.

“And it all started with porn addiction,” says Amy. “It’s the saddest story. He was so bright and good with people. He would have made a wonderful doctor.”

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. EMAIL: drob@deseretnews.com

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