“I Didn’t Know”: 3 Takeaways for Parents from the 2018 CESE Summit

By Julie Nelson, Shasta Knight & Melody Bergman

At the beginning of April, I met some pretty cool mamas at the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation (CESE) Summit in Washington D.C. One dynamic mother-daughter duo, Julie & Shasta, has offered to share what they learned at the conference as a collaborative blog post on MamaCrossroads! These facts are not for the faint-hearted. But have no fear! We’ve given you some tips and resources to help.

1 – The Online Porn Addiction Continuum

I didn’t know … that where the demand for paid porn from older people ends, first exposure for young people starts, thanks to the way the porn industry works on the internet. Experienced users buy pornography, while more popular images serve as free teasers to lure newcomers back. Sadly they also become the same images that blindside our children.

Take action! It’s not a matter of IF our kids will see porn anymore. It’s a matter of WHEN. We need to talk to them before that happens. Wouldn’t we rather prepare our kids’ minds than repair them after the damage is done?

Resource: Kristen Jenson’s read-aloud children’s book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr., teaches kids to Turn, Run, and Tell when they encounter inappropriate content. It’s like “stop, drop, and roll” for pornography!

Kristen Jenson, author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures books, with Shasta and Julie at the 2018 CESE Summit.

2 – Pornography As Sex Education

I didn’t know … that pornography is influencing the way teens think about sex and intimacy to the extent that it is changing society’s culture. It is teaching males to be violent, demanding and entitled to anything they want at any time. It is teaching females to be submissive and risky, to allow abuse, and that they are valued only as a commodity.

This culture is leading to more domestic abuse, more rape, more child-on-child abuse, low-self esteem, depression, anxiety, loneliness and a generation that believes sexting is a normal behavior.

Let’s do something about it! How do we combat this when all forms of media are sucked into the same idea/culture? It all starts in the home! We must protect our homes from allowing this content in. We must have hard conversations with our kids about the dangers of pornography and healthy intimacy. We must discuss and model what healthy relationships look like. We must engage in the fight for happy, healthy relationships for everyone!

Resource: Educate and Empower Kids has a great series, 30 Days of Sex Talks, that helps parents tackle these topics in a bite-size, age-appropriate manner. There are three books in the series, for ages 3-7, ages 8-11, and 12+.

Melody, aka “MamaCrossroads,” sharing helpful info at the Educate and Empower Kids booth.

3 – The Truth About Child Sexual Assault

I didn’t know … that about 1/3 of all perpetrators of child sexual assault are actually children themselves (17 and younger). The largest number is the 12-14 age group. Children are not born as sexual assault perpetrators. This is a learned behavior.

The truth is both children (the perpetrator and the victim) need help. The difficulty with child-on-child sexual assault is that children rarely tell. Children need to be educated about the dangers of pornography, how to protect themselves, and feel confident that they can talk to their parents or another trusted adult. If we do not teach our children about the proper place for sex in their lives the porn industry will.

Let’s do something about it! We need to be sure that we are our children’s first, most trusted source when it comes to sexuality. It’s also important to teach them simple concepts, like keeping private parts private. But most importantly, we need to keep an open environment in our homes where our children feel like they can discuss anything with us without shame. This–more than anything else–will hopefully create a safe place for our kids to disclose to us if or when unspeakable things happen.

Resource: Safe4Kids offers a curriculum dedicated specifically to preventing child sexual abuse. They even have read-aloud children’s books that address the topic of child-on-child abuse.


My new friends from Safe4Kids (based in Australia). Such fun, colorful resources and a great display, complete with Aussie flags and a little kangaroo on the corner of the table. 

The CESE Summit was a wake-up call for many of us. We heard statistics and details about pornography, sex trafficking, and other forms of exploitation that rocked us to the core. But we also learned that we are not alone in the fight. Spending time with 600 leaders from 18 countries all over the world, hearing about their tireless efforts and learning about the resources they provide, has given us hope.

Together we can make a difference!


Shasta and Julie with another amazing mom, Dawn Hawkins, who also happens to be Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

Julie Nelson is a mother of 6 and an empty nester after 37 years. She is a black belt and wants her students and all kids to have the skills and knowledge to protect themselves. Julie is a former member of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography Advisory Board and lectures throughout Utah with her daughter on protecting families from the dangers of pornography.

Shasta Knight is a mother of 4 kids, an advocate for the family, and a member of the Safeguard Alliance. She volunteers twice a week in the youth program at her church specifically with girls ages 12-18. She lectures throughout Utah with her mother. Their goal is to educate and empower parents with the tools and knowledge they need to protect their home and family.

Melody Bergman (that’s me–MamaCrossroads!) is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys and co-host of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast. She is also a member of the Safeguard Alliance for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and facilitator for the Virginia Alliance on Sexual Exploitation. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families.


[Featured Image: Storming Capitol Hill at the 2018 CESE Summit. Photo from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.]

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