SALT LAKE CITY — When Malissa Richardson started a petition to try and limit the sexualized feature stories popping up in the popular app SnapChat, she hoped it would have an impact.

Within 24 hours, her #NoThanksSnapChat petition had 10,000 signatures, and within a week she’d gathered names from all 50 states, 26 countries and six continents.

“Never underestimate the power of one individual,” Richardson, the former Miss Provo, told a crowd of nearly 2,500 people gathered at the 15th annual Utah Coalition Against Pornography conference Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Kicking-off the day long event, Matt Fradd, speaker, author and director of content strategy for Integrity Restored, explained that despite the negative consequences of pornography — addiction, broken families, sexual violence — it’s crucial to see pornography as wrong in and of itself because of the way it objectifies human beings.

“Whenever we subordinate the goodness of a human being to whatever end we’re trying to obtain, that’s not good,” Fradd said. “But … porn is very much like this. It treats people as two-dimensional objects to be consumed, without recognizing them as persons to be cherished.”

A Catholic apologist, Fradd quoted freely from the writings of Karol Wojtyła, who later became Pope John Paul II, who wrote that the “greater feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is.”

He emphasized that pornography is not wrong because sex is somehow bad, sexual desire is sinful or the body is shameful.

“Sex is good,” he said. “If it wasn’t good you couldn’t pervert it. If it wasn’t beautiful you couldn’t make it ugly.”

But today’s younger generation is seeing a much different picture than beautiful sexuality, explained William Struthers, a professor of psychology and neuroscience certificate coordinator at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Even calling it “porn” means society has normalized it by giving it a “nickname,” he said.

Yet as he works with college students and counselors and clinicians, he sees that a large portion of today’s young adults are not necessarily addicted to pornography, but are misusing it — more like a “self-medication strategy,” he said, to help them deal with stress, anger or loneliness.

For some students, he’ll have them direct their brain energy toward learning the guitar, reciting mantras or prayers or journaling. As students learn increased impulse control in one area of their life, it naturally spills over into other areas, he said.

Individuals can also learn to combat pornographic images specifically, Struthers said, and showed scanned images of brains, where different areas were lit up in response to sexual stimuli. He explained that when those same test subjects were warned of what they’d see and asked to increase their vigilance, the lights disappeared.

It's not about never seeing pornography, which is nearly impossible, but instead recognizing it for what it is and training yourself to “not let it have power over you,” Struthers said.

Which means having ongoing conversations with kids about the media they see and helping them see people as people, not objects.

"It’s not enough to put up barriers," said Sam Black, Internet safety consultant and partnerships director at Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability. "(We need to) encourage (our kids), train them so they understand the impact porn is having on our culture, the impact porn can have on their lives and on their future relationships so that they own this for themselves."

It also means broadening the metaphors used to talk about pornography — going beyond the idea of drugs and addiction, which may actually turn some people away, Struthers said.

He uses a handful of metaphors, like seeing pornography as a form of sexual radicalization, intimacy “junk food" or even thinking about pornography as a dangerous inoculation.

“Pornography is a dead version of something that can be fully alive,” Struthers said, “and when you give a dead thing to a child … they develop an immune response. My fear is that pornography is … actually inoculating young people so that when they are coming of age … real sex gets no response out of (them).”

During a panel Q&A with young adults, youth asked a variety of questions, like what recovery looks like, how to confront a friend who’s viewing pornography at school or how to tell their parents.

Zachary Andrews was 11 when he stumbled across pornography on YouTube. Having just moved, he had no friends and was getting bullied at school. But the videos made him “happy,” he says and he kept looking until his dad caught him.

“I didn’t tell my parents,” he said. “They found out, and that was the hard part.”

And it’s not just hard for teens. Research shows that spouses suffer even more when they stumble across a partner’s pornography addiction, rather than have the spouse come to them with the truth, explained Jill Manning, a Colorado-based licensed marriage and family therapist who works with people impacted by addiction, pornography or betrayal trauma.

As one step toward healing, Manning and other therapists use therapeutic or “professionally assisted disclosure,” which involves therapists working with the addict to create a physical document listing the history of acting out, the categories of behavior, the lies told and the timeline so the spouse can feel he or she is finally getting the whole truth.

When it's prepared well and with a desire to help the whole family, “it can be healing for both parties,” she said.

“I consider it an intimacy trust building gift,” Manning said. “He gives her the gift of truth, she gives him the gift of being in the room to hear that information, because it’s gut wrenching.”

It’s also important for spouses to seek out partner-sensitive therapists, who recognize their views on the relationship, their own therapy needs and see them as “front and center” to the situation, not just “sideline support.”

Clay Olsen, one of the founders of Fight the New Drug, closed by reminding everyone that this is about fighting for love.

"Please, join this larger movement," he said. "Get involved, find an organization that speaks (to) you and if you don't find it, start it. Be a part of this. And … just know that we're here supporting your own fight to overcome this in your own life, or your own family's life."