Testimony from Northampton Shelter for Battered Women: Half of Abusers Use Pornography as a Part of the Abuse (explicit)

Massachusetts legislators heard testimony about peoples’ encounters
with porn at a hearing on March 16, 1992. This account appears in In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings (p.423-425).

Submission of Gail Kielson, Boston, Massachusetts

My name is Gail Kielson and I work at Necessities/Necesidades, an organization in Northampton, Massachusetts that provides services to battered women. I am a Licensed MSW, and for 17 years have worked with women and children who were living with abuse. I am unable to testify in person today because we at Necessities/Necesidades are short-staffed and it is essential that I be there to work with the women using our services, many of whom are living in life-threatening situations.

We have recently begun to formally ask the battered women who call us whether the abuser uses pornography and from this we conservatively estimate that at least 1/2 of the abusers use pornography as a part of the abuse. Battering is based on an issue of power and control, with the abuser using all kinds of methods to continually assert his power and control over the woman. Throughout, he is persistently working to deny her of her ability to make informed decisions about her life and through threats, coercion, and continual terror succeeds at clearly establishing himself as “in control”. We frequently hear a woman say that she feels like a prisoner in her own home, and in fact, she is.

The use of pornography is but one means that an abuser uses to degrade and humiliate the woman. The stories that I hear are horrific and just when I think I’ve heard it all, I hear another horrifying story that sends me reeling. Women frequently state that abusers bring home pornographic videos and make them perform the acts depicted in the video. One woman described endless days and nights of this, with her husband demanding that she leave her place of business, a shop that she owned, and come home and enact the sexual tortures depicted on the videos; or he would demand that she leave the caretaking of her children and come into the locked bedroom and he would rape her. She attempted to protect her children from the knowledge of what transpired behind these locked doors, but their wide, terrified eyes indicated that they knew that she was being abused and they were helpless to protect her. Another woman said that she would come home from work, begin to make dinner for her children, and would hear her husband come in, turn the television on and know that he would then demand that she perform the acts shown on the pornographic videos. She had no choice but to submit, because if she did not he would threaten to beat her, or would beat her into submission. Another woman described how her husband brought home the videos and when she tried to withstand his sexual demands he put a gun inside her vagina and thus forced her to submit to his acts of abuse. Another woman said that her partner used pornographic books and read portions to her and then made her perform the degrading sexual acts described therein. Another woman said, tearfully, that her husband brought home pornographic videos and made her have sex with other men as he watched her and the videos simultaneously. Another woman said that her partner, while watching pornographic videos, raped her with all kinds of objects–pipes, sticks, knives. Perhaps the most horrifying story of sexual abuse, linked to pornographic use I heard was from a woman who was repeatedly raped, handcuffed to the bed, raped with all kinds of objects by her husband who continually used pornographic material. After years of terrifying abuse she managed to flee her husband and come into our shelter. He pursued her, terrified her and her children, threatened to kill her. When he was finally arrested and incarcerated her children began to disclose sexual abuse. As the children began to feel safer and safer their disclosures became more and more horrifying, for their father, paternal grandparents and paternal uncle had persistently and consistently, sexually abused them, using pornographic videos as a constant part of the abuse. Not only had the children been forced to have sex with each other and several playmates, but the adults had used objects in their genitals, had killed animals in their presence, had made them engage sexually with animals, had hung them from rafters, had threatened to throw them off a cliff, all acts depicted in pornographic videos. The results was that after several years of these disclosures, we were able to get the Commonwealth to bring him to trial and he was given 80-100 years in prison. However, these children are all in psychiatric treatment, one child had to be placed in a residential facility because he was actively suicidal, one child rarely talks, and walks through life with a haunted look, one child acts out in school. The mother has flashbacks of her own sexual abuse and lives, not only with her own terror, but with her self-imposed guilt that she had not protected her children. She cannot hear me say to her–“but he did this to them when you were off working, working to support the family and he maintained the secrecy by threatening that if they disclosed this horror he would kill them and you, their mother.”

Had I more time I could continue to regale you with stories that I have heard women tell me about the connection of pornography and sexual abuse. they have told me their stories with shame, with tears, with resignation. As the words pour out of their mouths, sometimes hesitantly, sometimes in a flood, I can see that they are reexperiencing the horror of the acts, the horror of the degradation, the terror of the moment. I share their tears, I share their horror, but I rage and seethe. Pornography is but one example of the underlying societal sanctions of violence against women that is endemic and epidemic in our country. I am working, daily, minute by minute, to arrest this epidemic.

See also:

Northampton Shelter Coordinators: Porn a Factor in Many Cases of Domestic Abuse
Tina’s boyfriend would watch the same x-rated movie repeatedly and then force her to reenact the kinky things he saw. Or he’d go to strip bars.

“He used to come back from these shows and I was terrified,” she said. “He forced me to have sex.”

It took Tina two years to marshal enough courage and self-esteem to leave him. She said that for her boyfriend the line between fantasy and real life was distorted by pornography.

Roz Cuomo, the administrative coordinator at Necessities/Necesidades, the Northampton battered women’s shelter, said pornography is a factor in many cases of domestic abuse.

“People say pornography doesn’t hurt anyone. Real women are being tied up to produce this. Men seeing it think it’s all right,” Cuomo said…

Everywoman Center Coordinator: Porn Damages Women;Porn Addiction
Stacey Roth, coordinator of an educational outreach program at Everywoman Center, a women’s advocacy group at the University of Massachusetts, said that, based on accounts of area women speaking about their experiences with domestic abuse, she agrees with recent arguments that pornography damages women.

“Typically, a woman will say that her boyfriend is into very violent forms of pornography and likes to act out specific aspects of that, and she doesn’t know how to stop it,” Roth said, “or a battered woman might perceive a connection between the pornography in her household and the bouts of violence…

“In no other case [of media communications] are people so quick to discount the argument about the human cost, which I think reflects how low protection of women ranks in our priorities. We’re quicker to protest media (material) that depicts the mistreatment of animals than of women,” Roth said. “A society does need to make choices about what attitudes it wants to condone.”

in Minneapolis: “Pornography is probably the most extreme example of
anti-women socialization that men receive in this society”

If you look at a lot of pornography, it shows women being beaten,
humiliated, tied up. It shows women tied and stabbed, poked, prodded
and abused by devices, assaulted by several men or animals, and many
ugly and degrading things. When you see a woman being battered, you see
a lot of the same ugliness and violence at the same time. Not only do
they portray women as liking and deserving this sexual abuse, it shows
them as enjoying it, deserving it. And that is what one of the great
myths of battery is, is that women deserve to be battered and that they
enjoy it. If they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t stay…

Video Presentation: A Content Analysis of 50 of Today’s Top Selling Porn Films (explicit language)
Ana Bridges: “…I’m going to begin to talk about what it is that we
found after looking at these 304 scenes in these 50 top selling
pornographic films. In total in the 304 scenes we coded a total of
3,376 acts of aggression. That ends up averaging…to an aggressive act
every minute and a half. The scenes on average contained eleven and a
half acts of verbal or physical aggression…”

Bridges: “We also coded for, what…we’re calling loosely in this talk,
‘extreme acts’ (of sex acts). The only sexual sequence that we coded,
which is…when one thing follows another, was something called
ATM…’ass-to-mouth’. This literally involves anal penetration followed
by oral sex…she is literally eating her own shit. That occurred in
41% of the scenes that we coded…

Bridges: “So how many scenes didn’t contain aggression? About 10%.”

Porn Use Correlates with Infidelity, Prostitution, Aggression, Rape-Supportive Beliefs

In 1995, Human Communication Research reported on a meta-analysis of 33
different studies. Researchers found that “Exposure to pornography
increases behavioral aggression.
While there are many factors that influence this effect (for example,
the content of the pornography viewed), the researchers conclude that a
connection between exposure to pornography and subsequent behavioral
aggression exists.”

In 2000, researchers reported in Annual Review of Sex Research that “A
relationship exists between frequent pornography consumption and sexually aggressive behavior.
This relationship is especially strong for those with the highest
“predisposing” risk level for sexual aggression. Those who are at high
risk for sexual aggression and who frequently consume pornography have
sexual aggression levels that are four times higher than those who do
not consume pornography frequently.”

The Science Behind Pornography Addiction
Permission-Giving Beliefs are a set of beliefs that imply that my
behavior is normal, acceptable, common and/or doesn’t hurt anyone so I
have permission to continue to behave in the way that I am. In all
types of violence and addiction, Permission-Giving Beliefs are
involved. Examples would include “All men go to prostitutes”, “Women
like sex mixed with violence” and “Children enjoy sex with adults”.
These particular Permission-Giving Beliefs are also common in

Testimony in Minneapolis: With Growth of Porn, Rapists Show Less Remorse
[L]iterally hundreds of women have mentioned to me the anger and
despair they feel when their husbands, lovers, or other male partners
press upon them specific sexual acts which these men learned from
pornographic materials–acts of bestiality, sodomy, “swinging”, forced
group sex, etc. The men feel such pressure on women is acceptable
because porn is acceptable, and pornography was the so-called
“educational” source…

[T]he work of Dr. Natalie Shainess (psychiatrist of New York) and Dr.
Frank Osanka [sic] (psychologist and child-abuse specialist, Chicago)
show that convicted rapists who, even five to seven years ago,
expressed remorse about their acts of violence, recently show no such
remorse and often cite as a reason for their guiltlessness that
“everyone knows women want to be raped; all the porn stuff proves that.”

Abusive Relationships and Porn: The Similarities (explicit language)
At Bookends, a large porn shop in Enfield, we found more material that emphasized violence, domination, lack of consent, and manipulation of the victim:

“YEEOWWCH! STOP IT!!” I screamed and shot a hand back to protect my
blazing behind. David’s failure to concede to my pleas or to say a word
in reply scared me to death!…


“Not as sorry as you’re going to be!… Maybe you’ll listen to me next
time and not act like a spoiled brat… I love and respect you,
Allison…but I won’t stand by and let you do something dangerous and
stupid. Do you hear me?”…

Punishment Porn: “Whether-She-Wants-It-Or-Not” (explicit)
[T]o the delight of the frenzied mob of young & old fans who’d just
love to see her so shamed, The Shadow…blows Angie’s plan by ambushing
her from behind & dragging her right to the manly man who is ready,
eager & more than able to turn her over his muscular thigh &
give her saucy seat six good whacks that tame the fiery female &
have her singing a totally different tune when she’s finally released
& forced to apologize to all.”

Statement of Rev. Susan Wilhelm: “…the sex became especially abusive after he started using pornography” (explicit language)
He exposed me to the pornography, too. Once we saw an X-rated film that
showed anal intercourse. After that, he pressed me to try it. I agreed
to once, but found the experience very painful. He kept trying
periodically. He told me my vagina had become as sloppy as an old sow’s
and he could not get pleasure any other way. He also used to pinch and
bite me. When I said “it hurts,” he would say, “no, it doesn’t.” I
became numb. I lost track of my own feelings. One time, he said in
reference to himself sexually, “it’s supposed to hurt.”

Testimony in Minneapolis: Porn and the Death Spiral of a Marriage
…we would have incredible arguments with each other. I
would tell him I loved him, I only wanted to love him, I wanted to be a
good wife, I wanted our marriage to work, but I didn’t want to be with
these other people. It was he I wanted to be with, and no one else. He
told me if I loved him I would do this. And that, as I could see from
the things that he read me in the magazines initially, a lot of times
women didn’t like it, but if I tried it enough I would probably like
it, and I would learn to like it. And he would read me stories where
women learned to like it.

Porn’s “Verbatim” Accounts of the Pleasures of Child Sexual Abuse Don’t Square with Reality
Researchers estimate that, in our country, about 10% of boys and 25% of girls are sexually abused…

Exposure to Pornography as a Cause of Child Sexual Victimization
The incest started at the age of eight. I did not understand any of it
and did not feel that it was right. My dad would try to convince me
that it was ok. He would find magazines, articles or pictures that
would show fathers and daughters or mothers, brothers and sisters
having sexual intercourse. (Mostly fathers and daughters.) He would say
that if it was published in magazines that it had to be all right
because magazines could not publish lies… He would say, “See it’s
okay to do because it’s published in magazines…”

When child molesters expose targeted children to pornography, the
children often feel guilty and complicit, particularly if they found
the material sexually exciting or masturbated to it. According to
Scotland Yard, one of the five major ways that pedophiles use
pornography is to “ensure the secrecy of any sexual activity with a
child who has already been seduced” (Tate, 1990, p. 24). Child
molesters can often silence their victims by telling them that their
parents would be very upset to learn that they had watched pornography.
Even without such warnings, children often fear that their parents will
blame and punish them for having looked at this material. Children who
are sexually abused following the exposure may feel complicit in the
abuse and thus become even more motivated to remain silent. Ultimately,
this reduces the likelihood that abused children will disclose the
sexual abuse to their parents or others.

Capital Video’s Magazine Rack: Bondage, Racism and More
“Because her body is beginning to ache, she writhes on the carpet. It makes watching her even more arousing.”

“A bed is still one of the most convenient bondage platforms invented
by man. If the headboard is of the metal type, rather than solid wood,
so much the better. A girl’s wrists can readily be tied to it,
imprisoning her.”

“Tied to the post, Tracy takes a fearful whipping.”

the shapely divorcee twisting like a snake and frantically protesting
the indignity he was inflicting on her, Rex proceeded to peel her black
panties down…”

Northampton Neighbors of Porn Shop to Include Homes, School of Dance, Counseling Centers and Churches
NPN took a walk around 135 King Street to see who will be next to Capital Video’s proposed porn shop. Directly across North Street is the Northampton School of Dance and ServiceNet. The latter provides mental health counseling. A little further down King Street, still within sight of the porn shop, is Saint Valentine’s Church, the first of several houses of worship in this area. A little further still is Children’s Aid and Family Service. Back closer to the porn shop, on Myrtle Street, is Skipton House, a YWCA office and counseling center…

Academic Defenders of Porn Need to Engage with Reality (explicit language)
I have met hundreds of women and men who have stories to tell about
pornography and the devastating impact it has had on their lives…

I have heard about what it is like to be coerced into making
pornography by parents, brothers, uncles, boyfriends, husbands, and
pimps. I have listened to women tell me about being raped and
brutalized by men who wanted to reenact their favorite porn scene, and
I have spent time with women who were gang-raped by their male
“friends” after watching pornography. The women who tell their stories
speak of the lasting effects that pornography has had on their lives…

In the world of scholarly discourse, these stories are contemptuously
referred to as “anecdotal evidence”, first-person accounts that may
make for interesting reading, but are not comparable with real
scholarship. In a world cleansed of pain and passion, the realities of
these people’s lives are lost in the maze of postmodern terminology and
intellectual games…

Jensen: When Examining Complex Social Phenomena, Scientific Method Has
Limits; Listen to the Stories of the Victims (explicit language)

“I know all about you bitches, you’re no different; you’re like all of
them. I seen it in all the movies. You love being beaten. (He then
began punching the victim violently.) I just seen it again in that
flick. He beat the shit out of her while he raped her and she told him
she loved it; you know you love it; tell me you love it…” [Silbert
and Pines, 1984, p.864]

My Boyfriend Loves Porn – What Should I Do?
Women internalize the man viewing porn as if there was something wrong
with them. It is not true. You are fine… You appear wise by not
wanting this in your life. I would be highly cautious having a
relationship [with] this man if porn has been such a part of his
life… You do not want to marry a porn addict and then suffer the
consequences for years to come.

One thought on “Testimony from Northampton Shelter for Battered Women: Half of Abusers Use Pornography as a Part of the Abuse (explicit)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.