Growing up, Len experienced much emotional turmoil in his home.  It seemed like his parents were constantly yelling at him or at each other.  There was never any sense of peace in the house.  Everyone always seemed angry.  As a teen, Len discovered Internet porn, and it became his escape.  He would isolate himself in his room, log onto a pornographic website, plug in his ear buds (so no one would hear the videos he was watching) and get lost in “pornland” for hours.  Because he had become so used to this environment, Len had no idea he was experiencing emotional abuse and he was using pornography to cope with it.

Victims of Abuse

Studies have shown that the majority of sexually addicted people and their spouses have been victims of abuse.  Here are some statistics collected by Dr. Patrick Carnes (1991):

Abuse Addict Spouse
Physical 72% 71%
Emotional 97% 91%
Sexual 81% 81%

Physical Abuse includes hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving, kicking, spanking with a belt, paddle, or hairbrush, being left alone, and not having physical needs met – food, clothing, shelter, etc.

Emotional Abuse includes yelling, screaming, insults, name-calling, profanity, ridicule, humiliation, incest, not listening, and a lack of caring, nurturing and affection.

Sexual Abuse includes touching or penetrating the genitals, early exposure to pornography, inappropriate exposure to nudity, incest, teasing about the body, inappropriate comments about sexual development, sexual jokes, and poor sex education.

Spiritual Abuse:  Dr. Mark Laaser also includes spiritual abuse as a form of abuse.  This includes punitive or angry messages about God, self-righteousness, negative messages about sex, modeling unhealthy lifestyles, failure to model healthy spirituality, and a lack of spiritual discipline.

Two Categories of Abuse

Dr. Mark Laaser (2004) and Marnie Ferree (2002) divide abuse wounds into two categories: Invasion wounds and abandonment wounds.

  • Invasion Wounds

Most forms of abuse are direct and very noticeable, such as being hit, screamed at, or sexually molested.  Laaser and Ferree refer to these as Invasion wounds.

Invasion Wounds

Emotional Physical Sexual Spiritual
Yelling Hitting Touching or Penetrating the Genital Area

 

Punitive and Angry Messages About God
Screaming Slapping Teasing about Body Self-righteousness

 

Putdowns Pushing Sexual Humor Negative Messages about Sex

 

Name calling

 

 

Incest

Shoving Sexual Misinformation/

Poor Sexual Education

 

Modeling an Unhealthy Lifestyle
Mind Rape

 

Note:  Mind Rape is a type of emotional abuse where a person’s thoughts and feelings are dismissed.  For example a parent might tell a child “you shouldn’t think that way” or “you have no right to complain.”  This is a painful form of rejection.

  • Abandonment Wounds

There are wounds of abuse that are subtler, yet just as damaging.  Laaser and Ferree refer to these as abandonment wounds.  They include feeling unloved, never receiving healthy touch, being denied adequate food, clothing or shelter, or never developing a healthy image of God.

Abandonment Wounds

Emotional Physical Sexual Spiritual
Not listening Being Left Alone Healthy Intimacy Not Modeled Failure to Model Healthy Spirituality

 

Not Caring or Nurturing Inadequate Food, Shelter Lack of Healthy Information Lack of Spiritual Discipline

 

No Expression of Affection No Modeling of Physical Self-Care  

 

 

Note:  While most abuse occurs in the family, it can come from persons outside the family such as neighbors, babysitters, teachers, coaches, youth leaders, and clergy.  Bullying from peers is also a form of abuse that can be highly traumatic.  If you have been the victim of abuse from anyone outside your family, discuss this with your therapist.

According to Dr. Laaser invasive wounds determine the form of the addiction (Pornography/sex).  However, it’s the abandonment wounds that fuel the addiction.  These wounds of rejection and neglect can take years to heal.  When they are triggered, it’s easy to turn to pornography/sex to ease the pain.

Len’s Wounds

As Len explored his childhood with his therapist, he discovered that he had experienced both categories of abuse:

  • Invasion:
    • Emotional: Yelling, Screaming, Putdowns, and Name Calling
    • Spiritual: Angry Punitive Messages about God, Self-righteousness, and Negative Messages about Sex
  • Abandonment:
    • Emotional: Not Listening, Not Caring or Nurturing, and No Expression of Affection
    • Spiritual: Failure to Model Healthy Spirituality, and Lack of Spiritual Discipline

For Len these wounds led to a deep sense being unlovable.    With the help of his therapist, recovery group, and spiritual director, Len began to understand that he truly was lovable.  He also came to understand that his parents’ anger was the result of their own woundedness.  This helped him to forgive them and set healthy boundaries in his relationship with them.

Experiencing Freedom

If you feel past abuse might be a cause of your pornography use, I encourage you to seek professional help.  Healing these wounds can help you live a healthy life without the compulsion to use porn.  God’s plan is for you to be healed and experience true freedom!

Sources:

Carnes, P.J. (1991) Don’t call it love: Recovering from sexual addiction. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers.

Feree, M.C. (2002). No stones: Women redeemed from sexual sin. Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press.

Kleponis, P.C. (2014). Integrity restored: Helping catholic families win the battle against pornography. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.

Laaser, M.R. (2004). Healing the wounds of sexual addiction. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers.