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Utahns search for answers in fight against pornography

SALT LAKE CITY — She said her name was "just Kathy."

But it likely wasn't — just like "Mike" probably wasn't the real name of another attendee who was interviewed Saturday morning at the ninth annual Utah Coalition Against Pornography Conference.

But the last thing Mike wanted was to be recognized by friends under a media spotlight about his "years-old" pornography addiction.

Kathy was only concerned about one person finding her name in the news — her husband, who she said is struggling with pornography but has been too ashamed to "go anywhere or tell anyone about it."

"He doesn't know I'm here," she said. "I told him I was going to my mom's for the morning. … I didn't completely lie. I dropped off the kids there before coming. … My mom thinks I'm at the mall."

She said she was "desperate" for ways to help her husband "get over this stuff" so their marriage can get better.

Perhaps in varying degrees, every one of the roughly 1,000 in attendance was more or less like Kathy or Mike — each looking for answers for themselves or someone they know, someone they love.

And after several speeches and six breakout sessions by leading experts, many invariably found at least some of what they sought.

Couples and individuals like Kathy expecting quick-fix addiction solutions, however, primarily found experts promoting long-term treatment programs.

Although the support of a person's spouse or parents is key to completely kicking an affair with America's new pastime, it's likely not enough. Why? Because pornography exploits the three major conditions for addiction more perfectly than anything else — endless availability, a-dozen-keystrokes-and-you're-there kind of accessibility and absolute anonymity.

It's a perfect storm, a kind of tempest few, if any, can navigate alone, according to Todd Olson, a certified sex addiction therapist.

After cyber-safety expert Ken Knapton cited several chilling statistics, he chided parents for not being active in their child's digital world.

"Out of fear of technology, (parents) tend to back off a bit and let them take control," Knapton said.

He compared that to permitting an unlicensed child to take control of a vehicle on his own.

Gov. Gary Herbert told the overcrowded audience at the Little America Hotel that pornography is a "growing scourge" that's being "downplayed" like the effects of cigarettes were understated, or outright ignored, decades ago.

Referring to the quirky but widely successful anti-tobacco campaign, Truth, Herbert said he would like to see the public turn its back on pornography like it has cigarettes in the past decade.

In a keynote speech, Patrick Trueman, former chief of the federal Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, lambasted the Obama administration for its alleged lack of concern for illegal pornography, which Trueman said can be found in almost "every" publication and video available.

Transmitting or sending such "obscenities" across state lines "via the Internet or other means is illegal under federal law for both adults and juveniles," according to a Web site statement by the Justice Department at www.justice.gov/criminal/optf/links/citizens_guide.html.

e-mail: jhancock@desnews.com