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Porn creates new challenges

Like many young people, Tom accesses and uses pornography, which he stumbled on by accident when he was 13. Most of his information about sex and sexuality is coming from the pornography he watches.

Tom is a 16-year-old boy with autism and ADHD. Tom was referred to SECCA by his carers as he has been having issues with online addiction and antisocial behaviour related to his growing sexuality.

It is not Tom’s fault that his understanding of what is appropriate sexual behaviour is unclear. Like many boys, Tom accesses and uses pornography, which he stumbled on by accident when he was 13. Nearly half of children between the ages of 9-16 experience regular exposure to sexual images, and the issues this raises are amplified for young people on the autism spectrum.

In particular, Tom is drawn to Hentai, or animated pornography, as it feels like an escape from reality. Young people on the spectrum are particularly vulnerable to Hentai as it blurs the line between reality and fantasy, and often portrays childlike characters they relate to engaging in sexual activities. The sex portrayed in Hentai freqently features dubious or no consent, distortedly large sexual body parts and illegal acts such as incest and bestiality.

Like many people on the autism spectrum Tom is a highly visual learner, and unfortunately this means most of his information about sex and sexuality is coming from the pornography he watches. This is particularly dangerous for Tom, who already struggles with intimacy, discerning emotions in others and reading social cues.

When he has sex with his girlfriend, he tries to recreate what he has seen in pornography, without feeling intimate or engaged with his partner. He doesn’t wear a condom because he never sees one used in the pornography he watches.

Tom’s use of pornography is causing problems in his foster home, as he uses a shared computer to access and hoard graphic videos and images. Google’s algorithms feed his addiction, providing a never-ending supply of increasingly extreme online pornography. His carers support his right to have a relationship, but are very concerned by some of the things he talks about, and Tom’s ability to work around the computer’s  child-protection filters.

Solution

Tom’s referral to SECCA has drastically improved the relationships he has with his carers, girlfriend and fellow residents. He works regularly with a SECCA counselor to address his pornography compulsion, and is learning about the elements of a healthy relationship, and the  importance of safety and  consent during sexual activity. He is learning that sex can be so much more than what he sees in pornography. SECCA staff are also helping educate Tom’s carers around how they can support his natural sexual needs while keeping everyone safe and supported when responding to his antisocial sexual behaviour.

Without accessible relationships and sexuality education, people like Tom are at risk of hurting themselves and others. Some may have committed crimes without knowing, while others long for connection but lack the skills and knowledge to pursue intimate relationships. SECCA provides an important service for individuals and their carers who need help navigating these and other relationships and sexuality concerns.

Seeking counselling?

The first step is to complete a referral form.  Anyone can submit a referral form on behalf of an individual seeking counselling. Please be aware we have a wait list due to high demand and the impact of COVID 19.

NDIS Funding

SECCA has worked hard to ensure that the introduction of the NDIS is as seamless as possible. For information on accessing SECCA’s services under NDIS funding please follow the link.

Through counselling in a one-on-one situation, Beth felt safe to learn about puberty and body changes.

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