Today we welcome Tershia de Klerk from the Joseph Movement on our podcast. She will be covering several topics from porn and the effects that it has, to prostitution and online safety.
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Intro: Hello friends and colleagues, Welcome to our Free To Fly podcasts.
Free To Fly is a faith-based organization working against Human Trafficking.
We are very excited to present to you one of our episodes, brought by our host Phinius Sebatsane, where we will speak about topics around Human Trafficking.
Today we welcome Tershia de Klerk from the Joseph Movement on our podcast. She will be covering several topics from porn and the effects that it has, to prostitution and online safety.
Fight the new drug
PS: Thank you for making the time to have this amazing conversation with me. But a lot of people don’t know who you are, which organization you are part of, what you are doing. Before I introduce the topic we are speaking about please give us a brief bio of who you are, the name of the organization and what we are going to be talking today about.
TK: My name is Tershia de Klerk and I am the founder and managing director of the Joseph Movement and we focus on reducing, exposing and combating Human Trafficking and sexual exploitation. Actually, the work started when I lost a loved one, who ended up becoming addicted to pornography and eventually it led to another addiction and finally to suicide. And as I researched the whole topic I discovered that there is a much bigger evil out there that fuels, or is fueled by, pornography, which is Human Trafficking. So that is where my passion comes from. And that’s who we are. We create awareness, we do many talks with adults, and then also programs with children. And I engage a lot with mainstream media as well.
PS: This topic is one of those topics that when you start speaking about pornography everybody wants to hide under the table. Especially young people, because there is so much shame and guilt when it comes to pornography. That’s what I have seen. Growing up as a kid I remember how we used to watch TV. I think that has ruined a lot of young people’s minds: they used to have explicit stuff on TV; and now I realize how much of an addiction it is, – especially for young people who struggle with trauma. People run to different things, they run to alcohol and drugs but I realize that people that are traumatized run to pornography and that this becomes an escape of their own trauma. So that is what we are going to speak about.
How damaging pornography can be: – for some people it is entertainment, for some people it is sex, But when we are thinking about sex, when we are thinking about intimacy – that is not what it is. A lot of people think that its real, but it is actually people who are acting.
But I want to dig more into your thinking, around what your organization is doing and I am very grateful for this conversation. I think the church needs to have this conversation more often as well.
PS: The church definitely needs to have this conversation more. So thank you for having this discussion with me. The first question that I want to ask you is, pornography is perceived for entertainment. But what I want to ask you is, how damaging do you think pornography is in people’s homes. I know it is under the carpet, nobody wants to talk about it – but how damaging do you think pornography can be? Especially for people that are married, who have children?
TK: Well, Phinius you know – the reality of pornography is that it is a public health issue. And the reason why I say that is, constant use of pornography is really linked to things like compulsive sexual behavior, depression, and anxiety. You look at some people that face career problems and financial loses, – and it even goes so far as to decrease sexual and relationship satisfaction, not to mention sexual dysfunction, especially with men, and also risky sexual behavior. So this is what we are bringing into our homes, and into our lives. Unfortunately, though technology is such a wonderful tool, it has also increased pornography use because it is so much more accessible now through the internet. One of the well-known pornography sites have actually recorded over 40 billion visits, just for 2019.
TK: So its growing, and mainstream pornography has absolutely no limit to quantity and extremity. And I say that because it includes themes such as child abuse, such as incest and even racism and other various forms of sexual violence. Not only against women and children, but also against men. That’s the one side, and the other side is it obviously harms the brain. You mentioned addiction earlier. So that is another problem that you are bringing into your life and into your home. We have seen that over 40 studies have actually linked internet porn linked with addiction related brain changes, which physically changes a person’s brain structure and that is very important for us to understand. So scientifically you can’t say it’s just a psychological change – it actually changes the structure of your brain. Another study that we found in 2014 showed that increased pornography use is actually linked to decreased matter in the region of the brain that is associated with motivation and decision making, and that I have seen first-hand. Referring back to job losses and decreased financial gain and so forth, it is because of this decreased motivation and decision making. So that is very dangerous territory that people are actually entering. So that is what we are actually bringing into our lives and into our homes, with consuming so called “harmless entertainment’.
PS You are taking me back into my primary school / teenage stages, where in my high school lot of girls were doing better than boys I mean, and now it takes me back to how damaging it was to my time as a teenager. Because it affected us so much that we couldn’t really concentrate in class, you know and it effected the way our school governance. All that we were thinking about was that. And we sexualized people. We treated women basically as just sex objects, as just somebody to use and throw away.
TK: You don’t necessarily realize that
PS: I also read something on the “new drug”, I think you know that – and they spoke about how pornography is connected to cocaine. How damaging the addiction of pornography can be compared with cocaine, that’s how damaging it can be to the brain
PS: But honestly what you are talking about is not just information, because I have seen the reality of it in my teenage years, being exposed to E-TV – which now I really hate. And I will say to parents, – never allow your kids to watch TV by themselves especially if they are young – because their brain is very fragile. I have seen the damages of it and it is as you said, we have normalized it in our homes and we say it is okay, but it is not okay. I remember one day when I was growing up a health worker told us that if we want to abstain from being sexual or engaging in sexual activities that we needed to watch pornography so it will help us to abstain from sex. And I remember me and my group of friends we were so irritated.
PS: They were promoting masturbation and we were like, that means we have to watch pornography and we were not happy with that.
But I wanted to ask you – how is pornography connected with Human Trafficking?
I read the statistics that the more you watch pornography, the more you promote the sex trafficking. How is that connected?
TK: Oh yes, most definitely. The problem with pornography is that it actually fuels Human Trafficking and a lot of people seem to be very surprised about that. Because there is that strong link between Human Trafficking and pornography. And we have to remember, that there are cases of abuse, coercion against performers within the pornography industry. Whenever pornography is made by force, fraud or coercion or if the people involved are under 18 years of age then it constitute sex trafficking. And remember where there is a demand, there needs to be supply. So where there is a demand for pornography, and there is a continued demand, sex traffickers respond to the demand by offering the so called ‘products’ – and the ‘products’ to traffickers are the women, children and also men that they control. So as a consumer of pornography one has to realize that there is another truth behind that facade and smile. While you are observing the explicit material, most of it is not what it seems. When it comes to pornography consumers, we are so influenced – like you have mentioned earlier about being desensitized. Because we are. We are surrounded by material that desensitizes us – in advertisements and media. I mean we look at books, movies, television shows, music videos that glamourize and romanticize the commercial sex industry without properly acknowledging the presence of sex trafficking. So that glamorization just fuels the demand for pornography. And there are endless case studies of porn performers who are telling their stories of abuse and exploitation. There are many, many case studies. Many of them go into it willingly, but once they are there, they are abused – they are being coerced, they are being exploited and it’s not glamorous, it’s not what they expected. Then you also get the sex trafficking victims, who are forced into it. And the same counts for them, they are also being abused and exploited and held captive. You know the modern day chuckles is fear or taking away their traveling documents for instance, or threating their lives or the lives of their loved ones. So these are all the factors that we have to keep in mind and this is coming from people who are working on the ground in rescuing and helping these victims. So that is something that is very important to keep in mind.
PS: I hate the expression that sex sells
PS: You see it with young people with TikTok; on social media – I realized that most of the videos that go viral are videos that sexualizes the person. The more you are half naked or you are making a dancing video and you are half naked the more viral you will be. So somehow the media is feeding into this thing that the more you are looking a certain way the more you are going to go viral, and then that becomes your worth that becomes your wealth. I think the media knows – sex sells. It also makes me think of the gender based violence in this country, when it comes to women being raped. Do you think that there is any association between being addicted to pornography and people ending up committing rape or raping women? Are there any studies or any connection with that?
TK: Yes, most definitely there are many studies and there are many stories and once again also case studies. I am sure you are aware of – you mentioned “Fight the new drug” – which is a wonderful organization to follow on social media if you want to learn more about pornography addiction and so forth, But then also, I think you aware off “STOP” – Standing to oppose pornography. They are having a ministry where they go into the prisons and they minister to convicted rapists and they have reported that at least 90 % of those rapists have confessed to extreme pornography use.
TK: So most definitely there is a very strong connection, because the problem with pornography is that with continuing consumption you eventually come to a point where you have to act it out. We said earlier it physically changes your brain the same as cocaine would. And as with cocaine, it is that you have to have it. You are in need of it. Your body physically needs it and the same thing happens with pornography. So with an increase of dopamine in your frontal cortex – it’s just so flooded with dopamine – that the dopamine no longer gives that pleasure anymore; so now you need to escalate it to something more extreme and so forth, so it eventually becomes something that the person physically has to act out, not alone, but act out what they are viewing. And most of pornography includes a violence or aggression. And that is not the truth when it comes to true intimacy between two individuals who trust and love one another.
PS: I remember somebody once said “Porn kills love” because a lot of guys would think sex is love”. If you love me, you need to have sex with me – so it has distorted what love is, it has distorted what intimacy is, it has distorted what sex is, because we think what we are seeing on TV is actually reality. But it is actually people just acting out. That is some of the surprising things that people you speak get a bit shocked about.
TK: Well, its definitely the fact that pornography fuels Human Trafficking. So, a lot of people are actually absolutely surprised by that and then one has to go into explaining to them why you say that and many are very surprised by the facts you bring before them which is actually just wonderful. It’s a wonderful opportunity to just bring the facts to people. I think with that kind of topic, also as you said – we should not shy away from this topic. And by just shying away from it, it tells you a lot. Because pornography is something that is done in private. And that is also one of the dangers. And if you are shying away from the topic, why are you shying away from it? You need to do inner searching I would say. That is definitely what I found. People are mostly surprised about the fact that it actually fuels Human Trafficking. Many people also seem to believe that when you talk about Human Trafficking the first thing that you seem to mention or think about is children that go missing and containers that are being shipped across borders and prostitutes for instance. It is also a nice opportunity to explain to them how much wider Human Trafficking is and that these are some of the smaller cases of Human Trafficking that take place
PS: You spoke about prostitution – who engages with something like that? Who willingly give themselves into just entertaining people? How can this feed into Human Trafficking, when people are just saying “no, I am a sex worker” and this is fine. What would you say to people who think that this is okay?
TK: We are currently busy with that debate. The government currently has on the table the possibility of full discrimination in our country. And we are saying same like pornography – it fuels. Where there is a demand there has to be a supply.
I am sorry to use that terminology, because Humans aren’t supposed to be items to be purchased to begin with, but that’s the reality. Where there is a demand there has to be a supply. When it comes to people that go into prostitution, choosing to go into prostitution, because I don’t even want to say willingly – it is technically not, that they go into it willingly – you know Phinius, because many if not most of those women that go into prostitution don’t go into it willingly most of them come from a marginalized background. A disadvantaged background and out of desperation to try and survive and to provide for their family they are actually forced into it. And we are saying instead of the government to legalize prostitution, rather work with these women. Rather invest in lifeskills for these women for instance, instead of legalizing something that does fuel Human Trafficking, and most definitely gender based violence. It fuels democide – I mean we just have seen recently in mainstream media the murders of women that are sex workers and that is the problem. It just escalates if it gets fully legalized. Can you imagine, Phinius? Pimps, Massage parlors, brothels being legal in our country in the state that it is in already. That will be disastrous.
PS You speak about men and women. I know you mentioned men at one point. I also know that some people think that a man can not be trafficked for sex, if all men want is to have sex. Can men be victims of sex trafficking?
TK: Most definitely. They most definitely can be victimized. We have to remember that when it comes to Human Trafficking, it is people’s vulnerabilities that are being exploited. And that is very important to remember. We have looked at the United States recent report. And according to that 67% of people who are trafficked into sex slavery are women and 5 % are men. 5% might seem little, but this is a global stat and this is only cases what we know of. So women are definitely victims as well, then followed by little girls and then men and then boys. So yes, there is also a lot of men that are being victimized; most definitely. And as I have mentioned, the victims are being controlled by fear and threat. So it’s not a case of necessarily imagining that these men, – you know a man is supposed to be strong and protect himself and others, but fear comes into play, their lives and their loved ones lives are being threatened. And that is the modern day juggles that are keeping them as victims.
PS: Thank you for that. As a man, sometimes we think we are just super heroes and we are not vulnerable to things like that but I know when it comes to Human Trafficking like you said, the unemployment rate, the poverty – you know people do things, because they are under pressure. And I also believe that men get pressured to do certain things that they don’t want to do, but they do them because they want to provide and do something.
PS: How can one protect oneself from sex trafficking? Of course, stay away from pornography – straight out. That will be your first thing, but what are some of the things men, women, and children can do… like maybe some small steps to not be victims of sex trafficking.
TK: Yes that is very important; we want to bring awareness of the problem – but we also want to bring the solution. You will be very surprised how much personal info we actually share with traffickers online. So first of all our online activity needs to be far more secure and far more responsible. In a study that was done by a few Cyber organizations that look into Cybercrimes they have found that some of the popular online information that traffickers use are first of all selfies. So remember our photos that we post online from our phones and whatever, there is mega data attached to them. So we need to be very careful. From that very simple hacking a lot of data can be taken. Also posts and tweets that are geo tracked and from photos where we tag people for instance, and then also our running routes, parental control / GPS tracking apps, those are no longer safe. Traffickers are able to hack into those. For you to be able to track your child means that traffickers can also track them. Parents should no longer using this. Then check in locations, that you can do on Facebook for instance and then other apps where they track data where some of us mainly just blindly agree too. So we just need to be more responsible online, because predators have increased dramatically online in the past few years. And then as parents, we have to be text savvy, apps savy and internet savy. If your child is on it, you should be on it too. You don’t necessarily have to know everything about the apps they use – you just can ask them. Just engage with your children, and even if they are adolescents, or young adults you can ask them – let them teach you about their apps and then ask them what safety features are available and so forth. And encourage them to use that and be more careful. And also when we do share pictures online just be very aware of your background information: some parents love and are very proud of their child’s first day at school and so forth. But it gives away the name of the school for instance, or you might give away the names of their brothers and sisters on social media. This are personal information. It’s not necessary to share online, so we need to be just a little bit more careful with that. And then just very simple, I strongly believe in all of us just learning basics of software skills and techniques you know. Just a few basics that you can just practice often and get very comfortable with, that´s very important. And you know when we travel we need to make sure that our cellphones are fully charged. And close by. And when you are travelling on public transport don’t travel with headphones on especially when you are a woman, because that makes you very closed to what’s happening around you. When we go out, for those young people or even us adults who like to go out with friends and so on always keep your eyes on your drinks and food. Never leave it unattended that is very important. Always try to go out as a group and always leave and return home in a group as far as it’s possible. And then just lastly, a few tips for parents. Because the the most vulnerable, are our children. Because many parents allow their children to have devices, but those devices should be used in common shared areas, so the parents can at least keep an eye. Absolutely no devices should be allowed behind closed doors or in closed rooms; that’s very important. And then also just remember that with online grooming, establishing trust, instilling distance from parents, are calculated steps that happen with online grooming. It’s very important that when it comes to traffickers that are grooming young people and even just vulnerable adults online. They get to know you, they know what questions to ask and they find you’re most vulnerable areas and they try to create that distance between you and your loved ones. And that is one of the mains steps about online grooming. And then I just want to say, some of the most important numbers for people to have also on their phones or memories them is the national human trafficking hotline number. So if you suspect any online grooming activity, any human trafficking or sexual exploitation activity or victim you can phone them anonymously. It’s a toll free line which is 0800 222 777. It’s a nice and easy number to remember, so 0800 222 777. There is also Quostodio´s which is a wonderful parental control software that parents can also use on multiple devices if they so please. And then Phinius, I don’t know if you have seen the distressed hand signal that became popular during Covid
TK: That is also something that is amazing. We love teaching it to people, to adults, children, if they ever find themselves in an abuse situation, – any form of abuse – then they can use that signal, which is just palms up, tuck in thumb and you close. So it is quite simple. So palm up, tuck in thumb and close. And you can do it discreetly and this is something I really believe is a wonderful tool that we need to teach children and very vulnerable people as well. Like you work with people, the homeless – teach them that because they can use it and the public should be very aware of that signal so that we can reach out and possibly save a life.
PS: well, our time is almost up – so thank you so much!
End: Dear friends and key stakeholders, thank you for joining us on today’s podcast. Our aim and heart for these podcasts is to raise awareness about human trafficking and to highlight the atrocity that this crime is to humanity. A reminder that human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry, which sadly is the fastest growing worldwide and second biggest crime after drugs. It is far more organized than many care to believe.