Wednesday’s Inspiration – The Porn Effect

It was 2008, I was 22 and in Grapevine, Texas at a FOCUS conference. I sat in a crowded conference room laughing and joking with friends as we all awaited the main speaker – Curtis Martin, president and founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students).

You know that tired feeling you get when you attend a conference? The feeling that comes from a day of traveling to the conference, staying up late with friends and then getting up entirely to early the next day. Yep, that’s how I felt as I waited for Curtis’ talk. I was completely exhausted and felt like I had just taken a dose of Benadryl.

Curtis was introduced, then he walked on stage as thousands of college students applaud. He opened his talk with a sentence that would change my life. “Pornography industries make more money each year than the NFL, MLB, MLS and NBA.” My heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest and I had no idea why this was happening. I instantaneously thought of someone I loved very deeply. No Charlie wouldn’t, he would never do that, he would never go behind my back like that, he told me I was beautiful and he just wouldn’t, after all he’s Catholic and we pray the Rosary that is impossible, I thought to myself.

I don’t remember another word from the talk. The rest of the hour was a blur and I felt as if I was going to faint. I have fainted twice in my life and it’s a horrible feeling. Your vision gets blurry, you can’t hear as you become extremely light-headed and then you just fall over. That’s how I felt, except I didn’t fall over I just sat there as soft tears formed in my eyes, rolled down my cheeks and unto the pamphlet I was clasping. I remember griping that pamphlet so tightly, as if my grip on the pamphlet was going to make it all go away. Before I got up to leave the room, I remember my sister Clare leaning over to ask if I was okay. I told her I felt ill, got up and quietly left the room. I snuck into an empty hallway, sat down and buried my head in my lap. I wept.

When I composed myself I reached into my pocket and took out my phone to call Charlie. I didn’t mention a word about the past hour, after all I had no idea if what I feared was even a reality. We said our goodbyes and he promised to call later that evening to say goodnight. I said, okay and he asked what was wrong. I said, nothing, I’m just tired. 

For the next two weeks I carried on as if everything was fine. But I wasn’t fine, I was dying to know if what I feared was true. We had talked of marriage and I was so confused. I went in front of the Blessed Sacrament and gave God my heart. I asked God to show me what to do. I knew what I experienced at Curtis Martin’s talk was profound. But why did that happen to me? Was I making this up in my mind? Should I say something to Charlie? I didn’t know the answers to my questions, so I told God that I would be still and asked Him to protect me. I was terrified.

I kept my promise to God and never said a word. I clung to Jesus those next few weeks.  Two weeks later Charlie told me what I feared and much more. At first I couldn’t even cry. I instantaneously turned into fight mode. And what I mean by fight mode is he could get help, he could talk to a priest, a counselor, we could fix this. I could help hold him accountable, we could do this together. That lasted for about a month.

Then one night we got all dressed up for dinner and dancing. He told me I was beautiful. I looked in the mirror right before leaving to put some lipstick on. And even though I was wearing a gorgeous black dress, with black high heels, my hair curled and make up on all I saw was ugliness. I’m not beautiful; I’m actually pretty ugly, I thought to myself.

The night came and went. I knew when he called me to check in one night a few weeks later that I couldn’t do this anymore, it was crushing me. But I was scared to say goodbye. I was terrified of the unknown. But surely there must be something more than this, I thought. I wanted a man to really see me when he looked at me and not someone else. I wanted him to say that I was beautiful and really mean it. I wanted him to protect me. I didn’t feel protected at all; I felt exceedingly violated and disrespected. I felt gross.

For the next two years I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I covered mirrors with towels. One time I smashed one because I couldn’t bear the sight of myself. The rest of my story is going to be published this winter in my book Choosing to See Beauty. 

I wanted to write about this today because I had given Charlie Matthew Fradd’s website a few years ago. I sent it to him as a gesture of my love for his soul along with the book  Every Man’s Battle. A few days ago I emailed Matthew and asked him if his ministry would be interested in promoting my book this winter. I also wanted to post his website and information on my blog because I whole heartedly support his ministry and think it is a wonderful resource for men and women. I strongly encourage you to use his website as a resource and to pass it along to anyone you think it could help.

Women I know how you feel. I truly do. If I could take your pain tonight I would. Please know of my prayers and feel free to email me for anything. My advice to you – turn to God as your loving Father in Heaven. My sister Clare would sit with me at night when I couldn’t sleep and she would just hold me as I wept. She would tell me to imagine that God was holding me as a gentle and loving Father. I clung to her words and made a collage for my wall beside my bed with pictures of Jesus holding little children. In the middle of the collage I wrote the words Daughter of God in bold letters so as to remind myself of who I really am. Daily Mass, the Rosary and the Blessed Sacrament is what got me through. Only God’s grace is stronger than Satan personified.

You must surround yourself with positive thoughts. It takes discipline and courage to get to the other side. But one of the reasons I’m starting this ministry is to offer my life as an example of what God’s healing Hands can do. I am alive today because of God’s grace. During my darkest moments He never let go of me, He held me tighter. And I want you to experience the same freedom and hope. You are His daughter and your beautiful because you are created in the image and likeness of God. Give Him your heart, let Him heal you. Let Him be your Savior.

Matthew Fradd is a passionate, Australian, and decidedly Catholic. Ever since experiencing a profound conversion at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000, Matthew has wholeheartedly proclaimed the Gospel and invited others to know Jesus Christ and the Church He founded. Several years ago, Matthew served as a missionary in both Canada and in Ireland, where he proclaimed the Gospel to more than ten thousand teens. He has since worked in full-time ministry in Texas, Ireland, and also in Canada, where he now lives with his Texan wife and their two children, Liam and Avila.

In recent years, Matthew has confronted our pornographic culture and has launched the website www.theporneffect.com. With patient understanding and yet with firm resolve, Matthew has pointed those who are addicted to or who have been wounded by pornography to the only source of true freedom and lasting healing: Jesus Christ and the Sacraments.

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