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Betsy Kneepkens: Protecting children from the hidden danger inside our homes — porn

Feb 28, 2019

As a teenager, working and socializing in downtown Chicago, I learned through habit and culture the things you needed to do to keep yourself safe. Every circumstance included a series of choices, and you learned where to go and where not to go. You discovered ways to walk with purpose so as not to appear vulnerable, and sadly you were taught not to make eye contact with someone in a situation you think could be harmful.

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

It was not unusual to ignore car alarms going off in large garages, because all personal property in the public area was considered a potential target for theft or vandalism. As long as you understood the norms, you disregarded petty crimes, because there was no way law enforcement would have the time to deal with every situation.

Basically, you discovered you could live safely as long as you kept your eyes open, your head forward, and looked for a way out of any circumstance. I understood northern Minnesota came with other sorts of challenges, but I am grateful I don’t have to live at the same level of vigilance. Good old common sense in public areas seems to be enough to keep safe in the Northland.

When we did not have children, we rarely locked our home or car doors. We left things in our yard, and we would walk at night, not too late, without too many worries. Mainly we were lazy but felt safe.

However, when I had children, my world changed. I have been a hypersensitive safety mom. Sometimes I drive my children crazy. Perhaps it comes from my upbringing, but I worry endlessly, it seems, and I require my children to take measure that sometimes may be considered extreme.

I have “briefings” before they go places and “debrief” after they return. This examination includes my adult children. I cover things that they should watch out for, instruct them on ways out of situations and behaviors to identify as dangerous. We lock our doors at home and have deadbolts on some interior doors. We have an alarm system which is set when we are home and when we are not. The children that are still at home have cell phones so that I know where they are and whom they are with. I felt confident that I was doing a decent job keeping my children out of harm’s way.

I believe the circumstance I could most control, my home, was adequately covered. I have determined over the past six months that this is no longer true, and that the greatest threat to my children’s safety is something I willingly allow in my home. I pay for this threat each month, and I haven’t done a great job of protecting my children from that hazard.

Through personal experience, I have learned that the Internet, surely one of the most impressive inventions of modern times, comes with severe threats which ultimately can rob and destroy our family and the most important thing we have, our soul. The Internet in all its greatness can cause so much painful havoc, all while other family members are clueless until your loved one’s heart is deadened by the decay.

I know that my children understand more about the computer than I do.

I know about pornography, and I knew that that trash existed on the Internet. I foolishly believed that access to pornography was there for those looking for it. My husband and I have always maintained and taught our children the dignity of the human person and the beauty of the spousal union as ordained by God, and we insisted they recognize that everyone is a God-created person that cannot be objectified and used for personal ends.

Accepting these truths as a cornerstone of our faith and foundation, I have learned, does not keep my family safe from being exposed to this garbage.

Those in the business of objectifying persons — who hook people into an addiction of earthly gratification — appear to be shrewd and immoral. In the past six months on three occasions, I unknowingly and unwittingly opened sites that contained pornography. One came as an apparently benign email from what likely was spam, and two others came from inadvertently pressing some advertisement on a page that otherwise had safe content.

Panicked, I immediately discovered that closing those windows was difficult, and I couldn’t ask my children for help. I needed to solve the problem, all while not exposing myself to the images that would remain planted in my memory.

The only way I could get rid of the site was to shut the whole computer or iPhone down, no easy task for someone who is freaking out.

This lesson was simple for me to understand. If I could be exposed unintentionally and without any desire to view pornography, I must also stop denying that other family members could expose themselves in the same way.

The producers of this evil see their work as a business. The goal is to make as much money as possible, no matter the means. Just like cigarettes, the younger your customer, the easier it is to hook them. The earlier they capture these kids, the longer they have that person consuming their product and therefore the more money they make.

Most people who do this kind of work are brilliant marketers who have come up with wicked ways to get teenagers to their sites. They hide them in applications, games, and websites that youth tend to use most often. So young people may not be looking for this trash, but it is placed there for them to come upon.

Adolescents, whose brains are not yet developed, get tricked into looking, more than likely unintentionally, and quickly fall into the temptation without realizing this evil is lurking to deceive them.

A bigger problem, of course, is our culture refuses to acknowledge the evil pornography indeed is. The very nature of porn robs those who view it of rightly ordered love. Persons become objects for one’s gratification, and sacred intimacy slowly becomes unnecessary and unattainable. Intimate acts eventually become a lesser form of the spousal union, because the partner can never live up to the artificial fantasy that is portrayed online. Addicted individuals seek more and more until the real act of union is unsatisfying.

Allow this evil to be the acceptable norm, and one can easily see how our inability to relate to others, as a person, becomes impossible. In a nutshell, love can only happen between people and not things. If other people become objects, we are now incapable of love, and thus love is disordered. Disordering love is Satan’s master plan to steal God’s adopted children from him. Normalize this behavior, and the Deceiver has the upper hand, leaving pain and suffering in his path.

As parents, we must keep our family safe. Most of us have done this by protecting our children from those that can enter from the outside. But we can no longer rest with that level of security. We must involve ourselves from the dangers that prowl inside our home, those instruments we willingly invite in.

This matter is happening at an epidemic pace, and awareness and acknowledgment is the first level of protection. To be part of the solution, the institution Christ entrusted with the sacred meaning of love, the Catholic Church, will be addressing this crisis the first weekend of March on Clean Heart Sunday. Our church is raising the red flag that there is a robber of souls in our homes, and we must protect our families from this villain.

I too must get better. There are organizations like Covenant Eyes that help parents filter this trash from our homes. They also help us figure out the new ways these pornographers get at our children, which is changing on a regular basis. We must supply ourselves with the weapons to combat this invasion.

I now know I must become as hypersensitive about threats from within my home as I have been from outside. I can no longer live in denial. I must step up as a parent and protect my children. I encourage you to do the same. Together as a faith family we must battle for the future of our loved one’s soul.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.