Behind the Front Lines: How Porn Harms America’s Troops

Marine Captain Jerome “Jerry” Lademan is a lifelong Catholic who has spent most of his adult life in the Marines. He’s done three tours overseas in service to his country, and his military service includes several awards. As he told Catholic Exchange, “overall, I’ve grown a ton as a man” since entering the military.

He is also a self-admitted pornography addict who has founded a non-profit to help service members like himself overcome porn.

The Heroic Virtue Warfare Institute

Two years ago, Lademan and two other active duty military officers founded the Heroic Virtue Warfare Institute (HVWI), “an independent organization that is privately operated and completely run on donations.”

According to Lademan, the group’s only partner is “Dr. Peter Kleponis, founder of Integrity Restored, the first-ever Catholic pornography recovery program. The practical structure of our new resource, the Smartpack, is based on his phenomenal 7-point recovery program.”

The Smartpack is the center of HVWI’s programs to date. It “contains various resources ranging from pamphlets on sexual addiction to the story of St. Maria Goretti to CD’s from Jason Evert and Fr. Larry Richards, and even a scapular and rosary,” said Lademan. “All of these resources facilitate the user in implementing Dr. Peter Kleponis’ program.”

“The process is a dynamic series of practical steps to overcome porn addiction drawing on the powerful graces that can be unleashed by frequenting the sacraments and developing good habits of virtue to rebuild a healthy and well-balanced life. With the deployed troops in mind, the Smartpack is especially designed to be practical and compact for frequent moving and carrying.”

As an extension of its anti-porn design, the Smartpack is intended to help service members realize their own dignity, says Lademan. “We want people to see how fearfully and wonderfully we are made for love, for self-giving, for union with God. This deep longing will never be fulfilled by the twisted and warped image that pornography presents.”

Porn harms the military

In addition to violating the Church’s teachings on chastity, pornography has been linked to sex trafficking, sexual assaults, and divorce. Lademan says the Smartpack’s resources “help readers to start to see the problems involved with porn use – really showing the connection of porn with sex trafficking and violence is something that we hope to develop more in our program.”

According to a Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson, the military does not support the use of pornography by service members. “Most research indicates that pornography and other sexually explicit material can shape unhealthy attitudes that tend to objectify others,” the spokesperson told Catholic Exchange. “Having this kind of material in a military workplace is absolutely unacceptable and counter to promoting a healthy unit climate. DoD policy forbids pornography in the workplace. However, other material, such as pin up pictures or calendars – while not necessarily sexually explicit – sends a similar, undesired message and detracts from a professional environment.”

“Removing this and other inappropriate materials from our workplaces was the target of a SAPR ‘Stand Down’ day directed by the Secretary of Defense in the summer of 2013. The stand down day served to re-emphasize our commitment to the profession of arms and promote workplaces free from sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

HVWI co-founder and President Kenneth Artz is an Air Force Judge Advocate General. Like Lademan, he spoke to Catholic Exchange on the condition that their commentary represented themselves and HVWI, and not the Department of Defense or any other government entities or government employers.

“One of the many services Air Force Judge Advocates provide to the military is free legal assistance to service members,” including “the area of divorce and family issues,” Artz explained. “In my experience, pornography use by one of the spouses is one of the frequent causes of the marital breakdown, including retirees as well as active duty members.”

“Both Jerry and I have seen the destruction porn can cause to marriages, careers, lives and souls among our fellow service members. Among the Airman I have prosecuted or assisted the command in punishing, in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and adultery, pornography use has been one of the most common root causes of sexual violence among these cases.”

Artz said while many factors lead to porn use, the military lifestyle causes particular stress for service members. “The common characteristics of the military lifestyle, such as living in a strange town away from their support structure, a stressful job, and frequent deployments; are certainly causes that I have seen lead to pornography use.”

Artz also said that while “the majority of pornography use is legal among servicemembers,” he has seen “as a prosecutor that in almost every single case in which I have been involved, child pornography use started with legal pornography use.”

Haley Halverson, Communications Director for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said her group is “grateful…that the Department of Defense stopped the sale of pornography in all Army and Air Force base exchanges a few years ago.”

“Pornography is toxic to military culture,” continued Halverson. “As concerns over sexual assault in the military persist, it is vital that we recognize the role pornography likely plays in creating a hostile sexual environment. A 2015 meta-analysis showed that pornography is linked to increased sexual violence. Further, since 2011 there have been 24 studies revealing pornography has a negative impact on the brain, such as damage to regions associated with motivation and impulse control.”

Congress has spent years debating how to reduce and stop sexual assaults in the military. A 2014 RAND Corporation study found that 20,300 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in the year prior to the study, and 116,000 service members were sexually harassed. The numbers totaled nearly five percent of women and one percent of men assaulted, and 22 percent of women and seven percent of men harassed.

There were 1.3 million active duty service members during the time the study was conducted. It is not known what role pornography may have played in the assaults and harassment among service members.

“So many men and women are being sucked in,” said Lademan. “Their lives and careers are damaged and often ruined” by porn. Service members “are extremely vulnerable since they are young, away from home, and often in tough situations. They need all the support we can give them to know that they CAN overcome an addiction that is dragging them down.”

Helping Catholics

“Currently we have close to 150 Smartpacks that we are beta-testing around the world with approximately 17 different chaplains,” said Lademan. HVWI is “working to make the Smartpack available through our website for anyone to order. A longer term goal is to publish our podcast series on our website. It is designed to address a variety of topics relating to the Faith.”

“Pornography is a symptom of deeper issues, so helping a person address problems that relate to the whole person through the wisdom and insight of dynamic and energetic speakers will help supplement the focused design of the Smartpack.”

According to Lademan, HVWI was created because “we need to build a culture of respect for one another that acknowledges the dignity and beauty of each and every human being. Our culture today, and consequently the culture found in our military, increasingly glorifies the view that men and women should be used for their bodies, disregarding that true beauty that lies in courage, integrity, purity, and real commitment to our country, our family and to the purpose for which God has so beautifully fashioned us.”

“This is what makes real men and real women. A nation cannot stand if those that defend it are emasculated.”

The issue of pornography isn’t a theoretical one for Lademan. He explained that he first saw pornography by accident at 15 years old.

“I was at my Dad’s office, doing my homework, when I decided to Google some sexual terms I’d heard at school, to find out what they really meant.  I had an opportunity, since he had a closed office with internet access, and was away teaching a class, and at home we only had only one computer in a heavily trafficked area in the basement.”

“I’d begun masturbating years before, but hadn’t tied it to pornography, just had continued it based on the pleasurable feeling I got out of it. I searched for a few explicit terms, before I finally found something I liked, and used that for the first time at age 15.”

“Over the years I’ve tried many different approaches, to include going cold turkey on my own, having an accountability partner, and having a men’s support group.  The trend here is clear, since I didn’t find lasting success trying to beat the addiction on my own, I found an accountability partner, and when that didn’t provide lasting freedom, I turned to a small men’s support group.”

Lademan said that he will “succumb to temptation” on stressful days, or use porn “it as a reward, if I am proud of something I did, or said, and want to have a pleasurable experience as a reward.” He also finds himself viewing it “to relieve boredom” – and he is especially prone to porn use “if I drink alcohol, and experience any of the above feelings.”

Lademan told CE that he is aware of how viewing porn affects not just him, but those around him. “When I’m using pornography on a regular basis, I become selfish, sensitive, proud and prone to anger. This happens to the point that I can actually tell a major difference in the way I treat those around me.”

“I was in a serious relationship a few years ago that I ended up breaking off. One of the main reasons was the pain I was causing because of my addiction. I did some soul searching and realized that I had to something. I met Ken through a mutual friend, and we realized that there was something that we could do to fight this epidemic.”

According to Lademan, he will “go through periods where I will watch [porn] every day for a few weeks on end, and then for a few months where I don’t watch at all.”

Despite his struggle,  Lademan describes his faith gives him hope for overcoming the desire for porn. “It is the beginning, the end and the means of my struggle. The end, love of God, is why I have to get free of it, the beginning, since grace and the moral imperative of being a man of God are what I have to lean on the start the process over again when I fall, and the means because I can’t do anything without grace.”

Editor’s Note: Lademan and Artz spoke on the condition that their commentary represented themselves and HVWI, and not the Department of Defense or any other government entities or government employers.

Dustin Siggins

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Dustin Siggins is an associate editor for The Stream, and a public relations consultant. He previously was the PR director and DC correspondent for LIfeSiteNews, the world's largest pro-life and pro-family daily news website. He has been published across the political spectrum, and has appeared on numerous local and national radio and TV programs.

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