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WRAP Week aims to bring awareness to pornography addiction, advocates for filter

| Monday, October 14, 2019

This year’s White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week began its effort to bring the conversation around pornography into the open on Monday morning with bagels and white ribbon pins outside DeBartolo Hall. Co-sponsored by Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), the Gender Relations Center (GRC) and Campus Ministry, the fourth annual WRAP Week aimed to lay the groundwork for sincere dialogue about pornography in students’ lives.

Junior Ellie Gardey, co-president of SCOP, said in an email that the sponsors of the week “worked together to develop a program that educated the campus community about the harms of pornography, united the campus in prayer for those impacted by it, highlighted the success of major organizations in addressing pornography and connected students to resources that will give them hope and freedom.”

WRAP Week is largely student-driven, with administrators at the GRC and Campus Ministry providing guidance and support, Gardey said in an email. This year’s speakers and events highlighted the prevalence of pornography use, the breadth of its effects in society and the importance of support systems for those who struggle with pornography use. 

Pornography is an incredibly important conversation to have — it not only impacts an individual’s psychological, emotional and spiritual health but it also harms relationships and is a social justice issue,” GRC director Christine Gebhardt said in an email. “Pornography use is linked to sex trafficking, violence against women and targeting of vulnerable populations such as children.”

Donna Rice Hughes, an Internet safety expert and advocate, spoke Wednesday evening about a recent push to filter pornography in businesses.

In her lecture, she provided valuable insight into reasons businesses are making this change such as workplace standards, safe environments and liability prevention,” Gardey said in an email. “It is important for students to be aware of these changes so they can ethically run their own businesses in the future.

On Thursday, licensed counselor M.J. Vachon gave a talk about supporting loved ones with an addiction or dependence on pornography and creating a safe environment for talking about a delicate and often painful issue.

“I am particularly excited about her talk as it offers our students a way to make a change on our campus by helping one another in a nonjudgmental and loving way,” Gebhardt said in an email.

Mike Urbaniak, assistant director of pastoral care with Campus Ministry, said his conversations with students about their pornography use have been eye-opening and have shown him how isolated students can feel.

“We as a culture, I mean broadly, but also in particularly at Notre Dame, our challenge is to talk about sex and sexuality in a authentic and genuine way that allows people to really ask questions and be inquisitive,” Urbaniak said.

Urbaniak emphasized the similarities between Catholic Social Teaching and broader societal values, saying that both recognize and seek to promote human dignity and human flourishing. While the fear of judgment can be a significant barrier to having genuine conversations about pornography, creating a supportive environment in which to do so can only make things better, Urbaniak said.

“The one challenge of having events is like, ‘Am I outing myself by coming to an event about pornography?’ The more we open up those spaces, I think the more people are willing to come forth in that and, and talk about it,” Urbaniak said.

In an email, Gebhardt said she has seen progress in generating those conversations over the years, but there is still a long way to go. 

“It is my hope that WRAP Week will encourage us to not merely talk about these issues during October but throughout the year,” Gebhardt said in an email.

One of SCOP’s major efforts throughout the year is its petition to put a pornography filter on Notre Dame’s WiFi networks, an ongoing effort that the University has rejected in the past. The organization collected signatures on Friday in South Dining Hall.

Students for Child-Oriented Policy will continue to call on Notre Dame to implement a filter on pornography like the filters at Holy Cross College down the street and the Catholic University of America,” Gardey said in an email. “The use of pornography on Notre Dame’s Wi-Fi network is already forbidden; the University should enforce that rule. The technology is easily available.” 

WRAP Week ended Friday evening with a dinner and discussion of Fr. Terrence Ehrman C.S.C.’s 2017 book, “Man of God,” that tells a story of a man’s inner struggle to overcome a pornography addiction. The conversation brought the week to an optimistic end.

“Pornography pervades our society, but people often find it difficult to talk about because of fear and guilt. An accountability partner, a helpful friend, a significant other, a priest or a professional resource can all be invaluable resources to help people overcome struggles with pornography,” Gardey said in an email. “People should not have to fight their battles against pornography alone.”

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