Minneapolis city officials heard testimony about peoples’ encounters with porn, those
who consume porn and those who produce it at a hearing of the Minneapolis Government Operations Committee on
December 13, 1983. This account appears in In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings (p.161-165).
Testimony of Cheryl Champion
I have worked in the field of sexual abuse for twelve years, from 1971 to 1983. Since 1975, I have worked in Minnesota. I have chosen to work in Minnesota because we have some of the best laws in the United States for working in the field of sexual abuse if you intend to do anything about it. I have been involved with the Minnesota Coalition of Sexual Assault programs which represented thirty-seven statewide programs and have been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault, representing programming across the United States. I have lectured on many of the issues relating to sexual abuse, most recently, the relationship between pornography and sexual violence, so it is most appropriate that I was asked to testify today. I am willing to tell you what I have personally observed in my clinical work with the victims and offenders involved in sexually violent crimes.
I am currently employed by Washington County Human Services, Inc., as part of their Sexual Abuse Unit. My colleagues and I are responsible for a multifaceted program that provides 24-hour crisis intervention and advocacy to victims, individual therapy and support group counseling to victims and their families, and an intervention program for juvenile sex offenders, and a treatment program for families involved in the behavior of incest. I do this to acquaint you with my expertise in the field, so that you can understand what I have to say…
I would first like to comment on the incidents in which we have seen a direct relationship between pornography and crime… I can tell you about a young married woman who we saw whose husband had the house so filled with his collections of pornography, she was too embarrassed to allow her in-laws or her family to come in. She finally came to us for help when she was left hanging upside down in the bedroom, even though the baby was crying and in need of nursing.
The second case I will tell you about is the kidnap of two young junior high school women in my county who were kidnapped on their way home from school and taken out into the woods and held captive over night by a young man who had constructed a very interesting tree fort in which he had papered the walls with pornography, and spent two hours assaulting these two fourteen-year-old girls following illustrations from the pornographic magazines that he had collected.
The third one I will tell you about is a gang of juveniles who papered the attic to their parents’ garage with pornographic magazines. They kidnapped an eight-year-old neighborhood girl and gang-raped her.
They are not pleasant stories. They are not the only stories we hear. I do not tell them to horrify people, but to state that pornography is clearly connected with sexual assaults that we work with. It is not uncommon for our victims to speak of the pornography involved in their assaults when giving testimony to law enforcement and in the court and in processing the incident in their therapy with us…
The second point is the prevalency of pornography amongst our offenders. Because ours is an outpatient facility, the offenders we are seeing come to us while they still live in the community. We are very careful not to treat offenders that we judge to be at risk to the community, that they would act out again. We are seeing the most, if you will, innocuous members of the offending community… Even the exposers who are guilty of visual rape in that they never physically touch their victims, to the more disturbed juvenile offenders or the incest offenders who have violated their own children, are heavily connected to pornography. Each of these individuals has an active fantasy life involving the use of pornographic materials for masturbation, fantasy contemplation, and eventual acting out of their scenarios on their victims.
One of the underlying philosophical [tenets] of our program is for all offenders in treatment to clean out their homes, garages, cars, and offices of pornographic materials. We are quite clear about not rationalizing the content–everything: pin-ups, books, magazines, TV cassettes and films. They must also contract with us not to use porn during their treatment with us. There is active discussion in groups and individual therapies about the inappropriate nature of pornographic material. Those people who violate the rule are subject to group criticism and a decision by the treatment facility whether or not they will continue that treatment and [revoke] their probation.
Several things are clear from our work with offenders and pornographic materials. First, that porn takes over their lives to the exclusion of any other entertainment materials. Some of these people have collected such a mass of pornographic material, their garages and basements are full and they can’t park their cars in the garage. It is an obsessive relationship that they have with pornography. The second is that it is a relief, a validating statement to the families of these offenders, when we encourage them to clean out these collections. In some way, the family has suspected all along that the porn had some connection to the inappropriate sexual behavior.
The behavioral impact of pornography can be summarized so: first of all, that all of our offenders show that they were exposed to and involved with pornography at a very early age.
Two, that their secretive collections are significantly higher than those we find in other populations of adolescents.
Three, when more appropriate sexual education materials are available, juveniles do not seem to need pornographic materials…
The final argument that I want to make is that I believe it is a very sexist issue that those defenders of pornography will say to you that porn is a portrayal of normal violent nature of men’s sexuality. That is the most sexist statement, and that says something also about men, if we are to believe that men all have a violent expression of their sexuality.
The second thing I want to talk about is the saturation issue. We will find that term in the literature is very clear, if you are a reader of pornography. I have had to because of my work, that over the last twelve years pornography has become more and more violent, that the themes in it have become more and more explicit. It is, in a sense, as if we can’t get enough of it, and so once you have seen one murder, not so explicitly, you need to have more and more portrayed realistically. You will find that people become saturated, and those juveniles you see starting out with low levels of magazines that simply portray nudity, quickly move on to those how-to-rape-and-murder magazines that are published.
The third point that I want to ask is whether or not it is that difficult for us to recognize hate. If you will flip through any of these magazines, you will notice that the central themes are racist in many of the portrayals that are of women… You will also notice that besides being racist, there are a lot of themes of violence such as Nazi prison camps, people who are held against their will and held powerless. It is a literature of hate, and that is not very hard to understand if you were to look at it.
The fourth thing I want to say, [is] that I have seen a percentage growth and a change in the people who are my victims. Twelve years ago when I did this work, most of the people I dealt with, it looked like the women in this room. They were white and middle-class and fairly well educated. That has changed. The majority of the victims I see now are children. The other change I have noticed is there was a percentage increase in what I call child pornography. The explicit portrayal of children being sexual with each other or adults. I think I can directly correlate that with the increase in the number of child victims I see…
The central division is between the sense of rape as an act of hostility and violence, as women see and know and experience it, and rape as an erotic act, as fantasized by men and practiced by some. That is a direct quote from a feminist writer who I think elucidates it very clearly.